Alliance Assembly candidate for Lagan Valley, Trevor Lunn, has said that because the current DUP health minister has avoided hard decisions, the inbox for the new health minister is already filling up.
Trevor Lunn said: “We have the unacceptable situation in Northern Ireland where our junior doctors have been left not knowing if the health minister is going to impose the new contracts that have led to industrial action in England. Health is a devolved issue, and the administrations in Scotland and Wales have decided not to follow England in penalising this invaluable group of health workers.
“Our current DUP health minister has refused to make a decision, preferring to leave it until after the election for his successor. This inaction is seriously impacting on morale amongst the junior doctors and has the potential to lead to some leaving Northern Ireland for other areas that may value their skills more than here.
“We also have the situation where the Northern Ireland branch of the BMA is calling for funding for GPs to be increased in line with what has been agreed in England. Current funding for GPs in Northern Ireland is about 6% of the health budget, whereas in England it is over 10% of the health budget. If we do not fund GP practices adequately we could have a situation where some practices may have to close. This will disproportionately affect rural areas, where it has proven difficult to replace retiring GPs.
“Last October the health minister set up a working group to look at how patients can be better served by GPs. The report from this group, the Review of GP led Primary Care was published in March, but it has been sitting on a shelf in the minister’s office with no decisions taken. The incoming health minister will have some urgent decisions to take as soon as they step into the office.”