Having worked for the NHS in Northern Ireland for many years I am fully aware of the problems it faces on a day to day basis. Certainly, full implementation of the Donaldson Report would help, but it is not the solution.
The problems in Northern Ireland can not be viewed in isolation. The same problems exist in all parts of the UK and require a national solution.
When the NHS came into being in 1948, the population of the UK was 50 million and male life expectancy was 64 years. Now, in 2016 the population has soared to 65 million and male life expectancy is 79 years. The population will continue to rise and, with new treatments and medications coming on line, life expectancy will soar into the 80s. Demands on the Health Service are already at an all time high and these demands will increase significantly.
For decades there has been insufficient funding for the NHS to meet the demands on its service and successive governments have tried to deal with it by providing extra funding at times of crisis. This is not a solution to the problem. It is like putting a sticking plaster on a patient requiring urgent life saving surgery.
Whilst at the moment the Government is embedded to the concept of a National Health Service, many people, both inside and outside the Conservative Party, hold a totally different view.
In my opinion, and the opinion of most of my colleagues, the only way to ensure that the NHS is fit for purpose and capable of delivering an adequate service in the future is to privatise it and charge for services at the point of delivery.
Many people will be horrified at this statement, but it is a viable proposition which deserves full and open debate.
Paul Caughey, Deputy Chair, Strangford Conservative Association, Portaferry