The changing face of healthcare in Northern Ireland

Edwin Poots presents his plans for the NHS reforms in Northern Ireland.


Edwin Poots MLA (DUP, Lagan Valley) is the minister for health in the Northern Ireland executive; this is the second in a series of posts from the health ministers of the devolved regions giving their response to the NHS bill – the first, by Welsh health minister Lesley Griffiths AM, can be found here

The overall proposed NHS reform in England is solely a matter for the government at Westminster.

As a devolved minister, it is my responsibility to deliver a new model for health and social care services which is safe and effective for all the citizens of Northern Ireland.

In June 2011, I initiated a review of health and social care.

The purpose of the review was to examine the future provision of services, including our acute hospital configuration; the development of primary healthcare services and social care; and the interface between sectors.

The review report, published in December 2011, paints a compelling picture of the need to reform. It makes clear, on the basis of evidence and analysis, that the full range of health and social care services are unsustainable in their present form.

I initiated this review knowing that there would be difficult decisions to take in the context in which we are all operating.

However, I made it clear when I took the health portfolio that I would not shy away from hard decisions where this meant a better service would be provided to the people of Northern Ireland.  Indeed, it would have been irresponsible of me not to do so in light of the very real issues facing our health service and the increasingly difficult economic context.

The proposals in the review team’s report, Transforming Your Care, represent a radical change to the way our health and social care services are currently delivered.  It is change that is long overdue and change which I believe will be good and will provide a more citizen-focused, sustainable and effective Health Service.

I believe the model which has been developed by the review and which has been endorsed by an independent expert panel which I appointed to support the review is a sustainable model which will deliver a different, improved, citizen focused and safe service for us all.

The review has identified opportunities that exist for doing things better.  We have an advantage over other parts of the UK in already having an integrated system of health and social care.  The recommendations of the review exploit that advantage to develop a new model of integrated health and social care for the future.

The proposed future model puts the individual at the centre and not the institution, and supports the individual to care for themselves and make good health choices.

The review team has provided a wide-ranging set of proposals which will need to be translated into more detailed plans setting out the specific changes to be taken forward.

The challenge now is to ensure that we take forward the implementation of this review for the health and well-being of the people of Northern Ireland.

I am determined that the review report does not sit on the shelf whilst I carry the portfolio for health.

The next steps will require leadership to be shown firstly by myself, but also by all of the elected members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and by the health and social care sector. We need to chart, using the review as the basis, a road map for sustainable, effective and efficient provision for health and social care services into the future.

I expect full unequivocal support of my proposals for reforming and modernising our health and social care system, to ensure that we get the best from the resources available to us; to ensure that services are, where possible, brought closer to the patients home, and to ensure that patients are treated in the right place, at the right time, and by the right people.

Change will need to be delivered through working together. We have had too many reviews in health and social care over recent years where little has happened. I am determined that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated and we need to move forward now if we are to have a sustainable future for our health and social care services.

I am committed to ensuring an open and transparent process during the process of change.

See also:

The Week Outside Westminster: Across the nations, devolved parties fight the ToriesEd Jacobs, February 25th 2012

Preview 2012 – Northern IrelandEd Jacobs, December 30th 2011

Should Northern Ireland football scrap God Save the Queen?Ed Jacobs, December 13th 2011

Northern Ireland health workers strike over budget cutsEd Jacobs, October 6th 2011

Northern Ireland health minister warns of “thousands” of job lossesEd Jacobs, June 27th 2011

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