Health latest from Northern Ireland and Wales

Northern Ireland Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has called for the province’s hospitals to perform more efficiently; in Wales new health policies were announced.

Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister has sparked controversy by saying that hospitals across Ulster could perform more efficiently.

Speaking during Question Time, Sammy Wilson told his DUP colleague, Mervyn Storey, there was:

“Scope for the health minister to continue to drive forward improvements in productivity within the Health Service and to reducing that productivity gap thus releasing extra funding for frontline services.”

Wilson cited figures as part of a productivity review, yet to be published, claiming that hospitals in Northern Ireland were 12 per cent less productive than those in England. Mr Wilson was, however, quickly contradicted by the SDLP Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey, who has concluded that Northern Ireland Hospitals had seen a 7% increase in efficiency.

He continued:

“This is a significant achievement and is even more impressive when we consider that demand for services is increasing at an unprecedented rate of some 9 per cent.”

Mr McGimpsey went on to make a less than coded attack on the Finance Minister. Eluding to planned cuts by Mr Wilson – reported by Left Foot Forward – he commented:

“However, £700 million savings over three years is not an easy task, and one which I have deep reservations about, not least as health is expected to deliver so much in such a short period of time.”

Meanwhile, in Wales, the Health Minister and contender for the Leadership of Wales, Edwina Hart, has announced that, from next year, women in Wales will be entitled to two courses of IVF treatment on the NHS.

Ms Hart said:

“I recognise that this is an extremely emotive issue and I have been keen to increase the number of IVF treatment cycles available to women on the NHS within available resources. In Wales, our aim has been to have a fair, consistent policy for accessing this treatment.

“I have had lots of representations on this issue and I am pleased that I am in a position to go some way towards increasing the opportunities for women to try to have children within the available resources.”

In response, Shadow Welsh Health Minister, Conservative AM Andrew RT Davies (South Wales Central) declared that the decision by the Minister was a “great success for the Welsh Conservative Party”, continuing:

“We held a debate in the Assembly in July calling on the Health Minister to reconsider the current policy regarding IVF treatment in Wales. We have, as a party, worked closely with groups and individual constituents over recent months to maintain pressure on the Assembly Government.”

Despite the welcome it received, it failed to implement the calls by the Chair of the Assembly Health Committee, Darren Miller, that the Assembly Government should implement in full the recommendations of the National Institute for Healthcare and Clinical Excellence (NICE) that Primary Care Trusts should offer three full cycles of IVF to ensure fair and consistent access across both England and Wales, ending the so-called postcode lottery.

The announcement came after the disclosure in June that a Bridgend couple, known only as Debra and Paul, who were undergoing IVF treatment in Cardiff, had found out in 2007 that their embryo had been implanted into the wrong woman. It led to calls for electronic tags to be used to prevent embryos, eggs and sperm samples for IVF treatment being lost or wrongly used.

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