Summit to discuss urgent action to tackle NI hospital waiting lists
Political leaders have agreed to hold an Executive summit to discuss “urgent action” to address Northern Ireland’s waiting list crisis.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill also said she had directly asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson for a cash injection to tackle the spiralling problem, which she said was “intolerable”.
More than half of those people – 189,753 – have been waiting longer than a year.
The Executive summit was agreed following a meeting of the Stormont party leaders’ forum on Thursday.
Ms O’Neill, a former health minister, said the waiting list crisis was high on the agenda.
Speaking on Friday she said: “It’s a very taxing issue, it’s a live issue for many people, the over 300,000 who are on our waiting lists.
“It is just not an acceptable situation and clearly urgent action is required, particularly as we emerge out of Covid – I think all of our attentions are now very much focused on this issue.
“I had the opportunity yesterday to put it directly to the British Government, to Boris Johnson, that what we need now is an urgent cash injection to help us deal with this intolerable situation.”
She added: “We find ourselves here today because the pandemic has exposed how fragile the health service is, and it has also exposed that over 10 years of Tory austerity have crushed our health service and it is very clear that we need that injection of cash to do something about it.
“I am also very glad yesterday that we had also an Executive and a party leaders’ forum where we were also able to discuss this issue and all party leaders have agreed to a summit where we actually sit down and look at the plan and tell the public how we are going to deal with the issue.”
Earlier, new DUP leader Edwin Poots said he expected the summit to take place within weeks.
Mr Poots, also a former health minister, added: “We agreed to have a summit for the Executive which would deal exclusively with health, and in particular waiting lists, so that was a course of action that was agreed from the leaders’ forum yesterday.
“We do recognise that the waiting lists that have been allowed to develop in Northern Ireland are entirely unreasonable.”
The DUP leader said the lists had grown at a “shocking rate” in the three-year powersharing impasse at Stormont between 2017 and 2020.
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