NHS shortages are partly due to the long running failure to reform health provision in Northern Ireland

News Letter editorial of Monday March 1 2021:

Monday, 1st March 2021, 8:19 am
Updated Monday, 1st March 2021, 12:46 pm
News Letter editorial

The chairs of the health trusts in Northern Ireland have come together to issue a warning about proposed funding for the NHS in the Province.

In a stark warning, they say that they will not even be able to cover wages.

Almost all organisations and public departments and walks of life seek as much money as they can get in annual budgets. No matter the settlement, they typically want more.

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But no-one should doubt that the financial challenges facing the health service are immense.

The Covid pandemic has wreaked havoc with the finances of almost every nation on Earth. In the UK, the Treasury has burdened itself with a phenomenally generous furlough and support scheme for individuals and enterprises (for which it gets little gratitude in Scotland or Northern Ireland).

No wonder financial pundits are wondering how Rishi Sunak will begin to balance the books in his coming budget.

Taxes will certainly have to rise, given that spending has been turned on so lavishly.

But in Northern Ireland, we have an extra problem in addition to the financial and health pressures of Covid.

We already had huge problems with NHS waiting lists.

And we cannot blame anyone else for our problems.

For more than two decades, a series of health experts have called for overhaul of NHS provision in Northern Ireland to make it more efficient. This has been ducked due to cross party political cowardice, for fear of being seen to close services.

Meanwhile, perks such as free prescriptions have been dispensed in an attempt to be popular with the public.

Stormont is still always making costly pledges. The deal to return devolution last year was full of them.

Coming legacy inquests will cost over £100 million. Recently there was clamour for a mother and baby home public inquiry. The Troubles pension predicted cost has spiralled.

This profligacy was never feasible over the longer term. Amid the wreckage of a global pandemic, it is even less so.

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Alistair Bushe