Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has welcomed clarity over extra allocation of money to transforming the health service, saying the focus must be on primary care and community services to ensure successful transformation.
The Department of Health said it will spend the £70 million in various areas – primary care, including GP practices, community services, workforce development, technology and prevention. South Belfast MLA Ms Bradshaw said it made sense to target areas in primary care.
“The key issue with the development of primary care teams and focus on it, is it means fewer people will be referred on to waiting lists in the first place. Delivered correctly, this will see people access the care, medication and treatment they need sooner. That is why we must continue to make progress with the transformation process, regardless of the political position.
“This is not a matter of figures on a page. A person on a waiting list may be a worker, a carer, a key player in the local community or in a local club – and the knock-on effect not just of the waiting list itself but of the stress and uncertainty which goes with the wait cannot be underestimated. Being on a waiting list can see a person’s life put on hold – and the lives of those around them. The allocation of this money is a reflection that this requires both short-term and long-term interventions.
“The scale of the waiting list crisis is also encouraging the development of a two-tier health service, with many people feeling they have no option but to go private while those who cannot afford that are left to wait. If we are to avoid that being permanent, we need to act not just on resourcing reductions in waiting times immediately but also on a longer term transformation of primary care to develop multi-disciplinary teams and other services at point of access to serve larger population areas. Our current set-up means we have too many people being placed on to waiting lists in the first place rather than receiving the care they need swiftly.
“Targeted wisely, this money can begin to tackle this and thus bring down waiting times and improve the service immediately at point of access. It is important this boosts progress on the broader transformation agenda.”