MLAs hear of challenges faced by the Health and Social Care System

Date published: 18 January 2018


Senior Department of Health officials today briefed a cross-party grouping of MLAs on the “intense” challenges facing the Health and Social Care (HSC) system.

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The meeting at Castle Buildings, Stormont focussed on ongoing winter pressures at hospitals, as well as budgetary issues and plans for transformation.

MLAs were advised that 2018 is expected to be a very challenging year for the HSC system.

Winter pressures remain intense across our hospitals and are not expected to ease for a number of weeks.

Funding of over £10m has been provided to help mitigate the problems, and co-operation across the HSC system is making an important contribution.

The Department’s Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said: “We all owe a great debt of gratitude to staff for their work under intense pressure.

“Every practical and feasible step is being taken to support them.

“However, looking to the future it is clear that much more radical action is needed. We cannot consign our hospitals to a future where winter pressures simply intensify year on year, and the whole HSC system becomes steadily more unsustainable.

“There are no easy or short-term solutions but we owe it to patients and our great staff to start making it better.”

The need for transformation, backed up by strategic investment in staffing and capacity, was emphasised and progress outlined in key areas.

Mr Pengelly added: “Transformation offers the only way forward on tackling winter pressures and other serious problems in our HSC system.

“We need to build up domiciliary care and other aspects of social care, enhance primary care to help people stay well and re-shape our hospital services.”

Notes to editors: 


1. The Department of Finance budget briefing paper published just before Christmas spelt out a very challenging position for health funding with “difficult decisions” anticipated.

2. The briefing paper outlined three different potential NI budget scenarios. On health, none of the scenarios “provide sufficient funding to maintain existing services”.

3. Projected health funding shortfalls are estimated at between £151m - £171m in 2018-19 and £265m - £340m in 2019-20.


4. A ‘one year on’ Progress Report on Delivering Together and a further update on its actions can be found on the DOH website.

5. For media enquiries please contact the Department of Health Press Office on 028 9052 0575 or email For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt

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