Northern Irish political leaders must immediately form a government in order to ‘fix’ a health service ‘on the verge of collapse’, say GPs.
The BMA and RCGP issued a joint statement alongside the Royal colleges of surgeons, nursing and emergency medicine, in which they appealed to ‘our newly-elected representatives to put our health service first’ and ‘form an executive without delay’.
As a ‘first step towards fixing our health service’, leaders should ‘agree a multiyear budget to allow leaders to plan and deliver services effectively’, the statement said.
In a historic election, Irish reunification proponents Sinn Fein won the largest number of seats in the Northern Irish Assembly last week (5 May), however the Democratic Unionist Party has refused to form a power-sharing executive unless post-Brexit trade rules are redrawn.
The representative bodies for doctors and nurses said that they ‘do not seek to minimise the challenges our political leaders face’ but they argued that ‘not having a Government stalls progress’ which is required to address the ‘longest waiting lists in the UK’, ‘overflowing’ emergency departments, ‘chronic’ workforce shortages and a general practice ‘in crisis’.
‘The lack of political stability puts basic service delivery at risk and inhibits our ability to make progress on key transformation projects including addressing our waiting lists, tackle the crisis in emergency admissions and improving capacity in general practice,’ they said.
The statement also pointed out that without the executive, funding for elective care, mental health and cancer strategies will be held up, with the ‘uncertainty’ having a ‘huge impact’ on patients’ lives.
‘We urge all political parties to get back to the table, set aside their differences and work together to address the immediate healthcare needs of all our patients,’ the healthcare leaders said.
‘The price of political failure is too severe and will be felt in the worsening health of our most vulnerable citizens.’
Last month, Northern Irish representatives worked on their proposal that the BMA’s UK GP Committee UK works ‘proactively’ to ensure that ‘the public know that their practices are, and have been, open’.
The nation’s GP services have struggled during the pandemic and before, with its health minister Robin Swann admitting to Pulse earlier this spring that the model does not offer a ‘work-life balance’.