Waiting list figures demonstrate need for fundamental change, says Bradshaw

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has warned that the latest waiting list figures demonstrate the need for a fundamental and comprehensive change to our approach to public health, and that there is no further time to wait.

Health Paula Bradshaw

The South Belfast MLA has said: "We must never become immune to waiting list figures just because, every time they are published, they tell an increasingly worrying story and seem to present an endlessly bleak picture from which we will find it harder and harder to recover.


"What they do tell us is that the idea we can restore a public health system which is accessible and responsive just by doing more of the same is utterly wrong. Unfortunately, they also tell us that action to bring down waiting times based on an assurance two years ago that they would be tackled decisively by the middle of the decade has, for the most part, not been effective. However, there are actions we can take speedily to bring down waiting lists.


"The first thing we can do is invest more rapidly in primary care, and particularly in multi-disciplinary teams and reformed GP contracts, so that there is an incentive to treat people at the very point of access rather than after referral. That way, fewer people would be placed on waiting lists in the first place.


"The second thing we need to do is improve our data vastly. The fact is that waiting lists are not properly policed. We do not have a clear idea of who is on them, whether they have actually been diagnosed or treated (either privately or as part of another procedure), or even whether the treatment or diagnostics they are waiting for are still relevant to them. The lists need to be properly audited to give us a clearer idea of where interventions would be most effective.


"The third thing we can do is come up with an individual plan for each area where people are waiting. It should not be possible, for example, to tackle the waiting times for cataract procedures simply by using all the facilities we have in Northern Ireland to carry them out and only then putting in place an implementation plan.


"Fundamentally, however, it does require us all to embrace both the principles and recommendations of the Bengoa reforms and also of reforms in social care if we're to save thousands of people from languishing on waiting lists.


"We need a new Executive in place as soon as possible, getting on with the transformation agenda, and for the sake of all those who rely on our health service, we should absolutely be in a hurry."