Hamilton’s chance 
to show leadership in health department

Morning View
Morning View

Simon Hamilton’s departure from the finance portfolio is a loss to devolved government, mitigated by the fact that he is moving to another key role, health.

Both portfolios badly need incumbents who are tough, financially disciplined and dis-inclined to populism.

Mr Hamilton seemed to be (by spendthrift Stormont standards) relatively restrained fiscally.

He talked with a degree of bluntness about public sector and welfare reform, which are initiatives that meet with little enthusiasm in our political class.

Such reform in both those spheres is urgently needed in Northern Ireland.

Now he moves to a department that lurches from crisis to crisis, precisely because of the cross-party failure to explain some home truths to a population that demands limitless, perfect healthcare.

Such provision is impossible in any society at any time. If every penny of GDP was spent on health, it still would not solve every medical problem.

There would still be some patients who fail to get the drugs they want.

The refusal to articulate this to voters has led to recklessness such as free prescriptions.

The biggest waste in Northern Ireland health care relates to hospitals.

For more than a decade, report after report has said that the Province needs a smaller number of world-class hospitals. Yet politicians have been too frightened of being associated with closures to implement such recommendations.

Mr Hamilton says he is committed to Transforming Your Care.

If so, and he acts on it, he could emerge as one of our most admirable leaders.