SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath has said the NHS must be safeguarded for future generations.
He was speaking as the NHS marks its 75th birthday on Wednesday.
Mr McGrath said health service reform must be a top priority for a restored Assembly and Executive.
South Down MLA Mr McGrath said:
“The 75th anniversary of the NHS is a momentous occasion for people right across these islands. Since its formation the NHS has been a cornerstone of society, improving the lives of countless people throughout its history, pioneering medical advances and not a day has passed where someone’s life has not been saved due to our health service. It was set up to look after the public from birth until their old age and we should all be grateful that it has lived up to its mission statement.
“Regrettably this anniversary comes at a time when our NHS is under extreme pressure and its very future is at risk. Successive Tory governments have cut resources, failing to invest in staff and facilities, leaving more and more people on waiting lists and struggling to get the treatment they need. Our NHS would be nothing without its tireless and dedicated staff and while they have done everything they can to keep our health service running, the coronavirus pandemic quickly brought problems to a head and we cannot continue on the current trajectory.
“As we mark this anniversary I would ask the British government to get real about bringing our health service into the 21st century and taking the steps necessary to return the NHS to a service that was once the envy of the world. More and more people both in the North and in Britain are struggling to access healthcare, staff are leaving due to the unimaginable pressures they face and recruiting new staff is getting more and more difficult.
“If we are to truly address the issues around healthcare in the North then we need to see the transformation that we have been talking about for far too long. I acknowledge this won’t be easy and we need to look at how we best serve every part of the North, but standing still is no longer an option. I believe we should also use this as an opportunity to build greater cross-border cooperation when it comes to health. The SDLP’s vision for a New Ireland includes an all-island health service built on the principals of the NHS where everyone can get the care they need.”