Reshaping services top priority for new Health Minister

Date published: 26 May 2016


The new Health Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA has said her priority is to reshape and refocus the future of health care services in the north.

Health Minister Michelle O'Neill
Health Minister Michelle O'Neill

Speaking on her first day Minister O’Neill said: "The north’s health and social care sector is the envy of many countries across the globe and there is much we should be proud of and thankful for. We are pioneering, innovative and patient focussed, while remaining free at the point of delivery.

“Among my priorities in the time ahead will be the further development of all-island networks to tap into the benefits that cooperation on health and social care issues will bring to every part of this island. I will also place a focus on reducing health inequalities so that no matter where you live, you have the same chance of living a long and healthy life. Mental health is another area which I intend to prioritise and champion.

“There are many challenges to be faced in the time ahead.  More people are living longer with chronic conditions, unhealthy lifestyles create pressure on services and new developments in medical technologies and drugs are increasing demand and raising costs. And all of this in the context of the extreme financial pressures created by a Tory government committed to reducing public services. This means we must use the limited resources we have wisely.

“I intend to focus efforts to reshaping our health and social care sector to ensure we are as efficient and effective as we can be. We must have a firmer grip on the strategic direction of health care delivery in the north and make sure that we deliver the best possible healthcare for all patients. Professor Bengoa’s report, which will help shape the future of health care in the north, is expected in summer 2016. This report will lead the debate on how we can deliver a world-class health service and will form a key part of any change agenda. This, along with the structural reform of the health service, will see a major shift in the way we deliver services.

“We must all rise to this challenge and make the changes necessary to ensure our health service continues to deliver for those in greatest need. The message is simple – we cannot stand still; and we must evolve to survive.”

The Minister added: "I want to recognise the hard work, professionalism and skill of all the staff in the health and social care sector, the Ambulance and Fire Services.  I appreciate the pressured environment they work under and I am very grateful for the expert care they provide. I want to engage with staff from day one. I want to hear from them, I want to listen to their ideas and to any issues they have. It is through their passion and experience that we can keep the momentum of change going. I very much look forward to working with them.”

In conclusion Minister O’Neill said:  “I will strive to improve our health service in every way possible, whilst protecting what is already so good. It is a privilege for me to hold this post and I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead.”

Notes to editors: 

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