Audit Office raises concern that elective care becoming poor relation of Health Service, says Bradshaw

Alliance Health Spokesperson Paula Bradshaw has warned that an Audit Office report published today demonstrates that elective care is increasingly becoming the poor relation in terms of prioritisation of the healthcare system.

Health Paula Bradshaw

The South Belfast MLA stated: "Audit Office figures show that almost three times as many people are awaiting a first diagnostic test, initial outpatient appointment or inpatient treatment as was the case less than a decade ago. Half of patients have been waiting a year already for an initial appointment or inpatient treatment. Furthermore, the report is clear that the problem is longstanding; while the pandemic did not help, it is not the fundamental cause of the decline in service.
"The Audit Office report also confirms what we already knew: sustainable planning is impossible without sustainable funding. For example, the estimated cost of a Departmental plan substantially to reduce waiting times is £909m over five years, but only £136m has been allocated from existing devolved budgets. The Department already admits, as a result, that even stabilising waiting lists by 2026 is effectively impossible and therefore the targets in the existing Framework will not be met.
"The penalty for this is the reinforcement of a two-tier health system, where those who can afford it go private for vital tests and treatment while those who cannot are left to languish on a list. This is the absolute opposite of the principle of a public health system for which we should all stand.
"There have been steps forward in enhancing elective care capacity, but these have lagged behind the rest of the UK and have not been sufficient to keep up with demand. What is required now is the re-establishment of an Executive to come forward with a more sustainable funding plan for Transformation, including to tackle waiting lists, and of a Health Committee to scrutinise that work and ensure plans are implemented and targets are met. In other words, it is time we prioritised longer term funding and planning in order to restore a public health system which delivers the diagnoses and treatments on which at one stage or another we all come to rely."