Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Minister’s transformative Health and Wellbeing plan welcomed by Sinn Fein

Health Minister Michelle O’Neill’s ten year plan to transform Northern Ireland’s struggling health service is “a step towards building an all-Ireland universal health system” – according to Newry and Armagh MLA, Conor Murphy.

Giving his reaction to the “Health and Wellbeing 2026” report launched by his party colleague last week, Mr Murphy said the radical document “sets out the future shape of quality health services in the north and across the island.”

Minister O’Neill’s blueprint is the response to an independent analysis of the system by a panel of experts, led by Spanish Professor Rafael Bengoa.

The plan emphasises the need for preventative steps to improve the health of the wider population and the provision of more care away from acute hospital settings. Criteria will also be developed to determine how to redesign the delivery of specific services such as stroke, diabetes and pathology, with five services examined every year of the plan.

Mr Murphy welcomed the publication of the report, particularly in light of the Oireachtas All Party committee on future healthcare which is looking at a 10 year vision for health services.

“We now need a new model of health care, which will deliver for our people, meet the challenges of the 21st century, make the most of key medical advances and address changes in our population, while supporting all our staff,” said the Sinn Fein MLA, who also welcomed the report’s emphasis on building and developing the current all-Ireland health structures in future plans.

“It will be particularly welcome in my own constituency where the future of healthcare undoubtedly lies in cross-border cooperation,” he added

“It has already been shown that cross-border co-operation works, as has been seen with the children’s cardiac services and the Cancer Centre in Derry.

“Sinn Féin believes healthcare must be developed on an All-Ireland basis.  We believe that we should move from increased cooperation to ultimately full integration of services on the island, maximising the healthcare benefits for all and achieving greater economies of scale.”

Mr Murphy also commended the Health Minister on her engagement with more than 70,000 Health and Social Care staff ahead of the launch of the transformative Health Care plan, describing it as “a measure of her commitment to ensuring that healthcare reform is guided by those who work in the industry.”

“It is important staff continue to be involved because everyone has a role to play as we continue to deliver 21st century Health and Social Care.”

Meanwhile, party colleague Megan Fearon said the announcement from GPs that they will not resign from health trusts following the publication of the ten year plan to improve the Health and Social Care Service would be particularly welcome in south Armagh, where GP services are struggling to meet demand.

“The plans include increased support for doctors, including the provision of more GPs and nurses and wider support teams,” said Ms Fearon.

“GPs have indicated that they want change and have reacted positively to the Health Minister’s vision for the future of the Health Service.

“There is a role for everyone in the health service, and GPs in particular, to work together with the Health Minister in the time ahead to improve the Health and Social Care system for the benefit of patients and staff.”