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Statement on winter pressures makes re-opening without mitigation baffling, says Bradshaw

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has welcomed the relative success of the workforce appeal to help the health and social care system with winter pressures, but re-emphasised the Health Minister’s claim the system faces its most difficult winter ever makes recent decisions on re-opening without mitigations all the more baffling.

The South Belfast MLA was speaking after Robin Swann updated the Assembly on planning to tackle the pressures, in which he stated we are ‘likely facing the most difficult winter ever experienced’.

“It is welcome so many people have responded to the workforce appeal for the winter period and I do not think most people are in any doubt of the severe pressures ahead for the health service,” said Ms Bradshaw.

“But everything from the shortage of acute beds to the ongoing re-deployment of specialists is having a significant negative effect on the health and well-being of the population. We should be doing everything we reasonably can to relieve the pressure so we do not have to make appeals for workforce and so all diagnosis and treatment can be given the right priority.

“Instead, we have the utterly baffling decision to re-open nightclubs without any mitigations following on from a similar decision to remove social distancing. Such moves are incomprehensible when we read the scale of the pressures all ready due to be heaped upon our health services and the seriously detrimental effect this will have across the population.

“I am also increasingly concerned the next phase of vaccination is not proceeding quickly enough. If we are to keep people out of hospital we need more people vaccinated and, particularly, boosters provided to those most vulnerable. Vaccination is not our only protection but it is our main tool in keeping people healthy and reducing the burden on healthcare.

“I would urge the Health Minister to return to the Executive with a clear policy of reducing pressure on the health system by ensuring no re-openings proceed without clear mitigations in place, at the very least until the booster vaccination programme is complete.”