I am writing this letter to each of you as I approach the end of my first week back as Health Minister.
When I stepped down from the role in October 2022, I expressed the view that, despite the severe pressures on services and staff, better days lie ahead for health and social care in Northern Ireland.
I still firmly believe that – I would not have accepted the job otherwise. And while the pressures are even more intense now, we know the situation can be turned around.
It falls to me, with the support of my Executive colleagues, to chart a sustainable way forward.
As I have stated publicly, my immediate priority is to secure you a long overdue pay increase for the current year. I have written to trade unions, inviting them to early discussions in this regard.
The Executive is united on the need to resolve public sector pay disputes and rebuild public services. To that end, we have jointly written to the Prime Minister to seek an improved financial settlement.
I will continue to fight the corner for much-needed additional funding for health and social care. At the same time, we also have to focus on productivity and efficiency gains to make sure we make the best use of every single pound we receive. Given the budgetary constraints facing the Executive, this is absolutely essential.
I hope to see many of you personally before too long. To help inform my policy priorities I will be out and about visiting all parts of the health and social care system in the coming weeks.
When I stepped down in 2022, I concluded a letter to each of you by saying: “I retain my optimism for the future because of the great staff throughout health and social care. I am honoured to have been your Minister. Please be assured that whatever the future holds for me, I will always be in your corner.”
I reiterate that commitment today, as I take up the post again.
Thank you for your continued service.
Notes to editors:
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