Health Minister Simon Hamilton MLA has today said he supports a move towards a seven day Health Service in Northern Ireland.
The Minister said he looks forward to working with health service staff and other administrations in the UK to bring about positive, transformational change to the standard of care patients and people receive.
Commenting, Simon Hamilton said: “When I took up post as Minister of Health I made it clear that I had a vision for a world class Health and Social Care system for Northern Ireland.
“In wanting to work towards delivering the best Health and Social Care system what has been to the forefront of my mind has been what is best for the people of Northern Ireland. Reforming and transforming Health and Social Care in a way that puts the patient and people at the centre is an immense challenge that brings with it what can appear to be tough choices and difficult decisions.
“Sometimes that will mean reconfiguring services consistent with the road map laid out in Transforming Your Care.
“Sometimes that will mean embracing new technologies to deliver services. Just this week Northern Ireland has been named as one of only five centres of excellence for precision medicine in the whole of the United Kingdom.
“And sometimes that will mean changing how we work within Health and Social Care.
“I very much welcome the debate started by the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt around how we can move towards a 'seven day NHS'.
“It isn't accurate to say that our Health Service doesn't operate 24/7. It does. But it doesn't to the same level that it does Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. Almost all of us will be able to recount experiences from our own lives or that of our loved ones where the standard of care received wasn't what we'd expect or, worse, wasn't maybe what would have been received on a Wednesday or a Thursday. In this day and age, that sort of disparity in service is simply unacceptable.
“Patient need doesn't dissipate because it's a weekend and the service we deliver across Health and Social Care needs to change accordingly.
“It is in all of our interests to address the issue of a seven day service. Not only will patients see a consistent level of service but the fact that they may, as a result, spend less time in hospital means that other patients will get the care they need when they need and not have to wait.
“What is sometimes referred to as 'out of hours' is in fact the majority of the week. What I want to see is us moving progressively towards a seven day NHS in Northern Ireland, one where patients and people don't notice a difference between a week day and a weekend.
“I await with keen interest the response of the various trade unions to the Secretary of State's call for change and I hope that they agree to engage in working towards a balanced package of affordable proposals for reform.
“Service delivery is a complex system, which involves the full range of clinical professional staff, managerial staff and support staff and I am aware of the considerable work ahead in the full development of seven day service provision but I support the development of seven day services, and want to work with other administrations in the UK and the medical trade unions to bring about this potentially positive transformation for the provision of health care.”
Notes to editors:
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