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I want a world class health service with the patient at its heart – Hamilton

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Health Minister Simon Hamilton has said that the patient should be at the heart of a world class health service.

The Minister was speaking today to an audience of delegates from across the Health and Social Care sector at an NICON event, which had the theme, ‘Addressing the challenges of Health and Social Care’.

The Minister said: “The appointment of an expert panel chaired by Professor Rafael Bengoa to lead the debate on how we can deliver a world class Health and Social Care system in Northern Ireland is another important step forward in the implementation of the radical and far reaching reform plans I outlined last November. We recently commenced a consultation on my proposal to remove an entire layer of bureaucracy from the Health and Social Care system by closing the Board and I am committed to using some of the increase in expenditure my Department was granted in the 2016/17 Budget to create a transformation fund to help make the service delivery changes we need a reality. Reform is well under way.”

Minister Hamilton continued: “I understand that many may be weary, or indeed wary, of reform. It can seem that we have been in a constant cycle of change within the Health Service in Northern Ireland. In some respects, given the scale of the challenges facing the NHS in Northern Ireland, the need to continually change and improve will endure.

“We do not have the luxury of being able to sit back and do nothing. The NHS which we all cherish is facing perhaps the biggest set of challenges in its existence. When we are being buffeted by the storm of a growing and ageing population, unhealthy lifestyles, a rise in chronic conditions and pressure on budgets, reform is not some optional extra. It is a necessity. If we want to conserve what is best about our NHS then we must reform. Failure to reform will mean the failure of our health and social care system.

“The very future of the NHS we love should be incentive enough to reform and change how we do things. But I want us to use the opportunity that change presents to not just ensure that our NHS survives but engender a transformation that makes it thrive.

“I want us to work together to create a Health and Social Care system that the people of Northern Ireland can be proud of, but I am also ambitious for us to have a Health Service that is viewed as an exemplar internationally. We already have many areas of our NHS which we can point to and say without fear of contradiction that they are genuinely world class and many of my reforms are about spreading that excellence across all parts of our system.

“For me, a truly world class Heath Service is one that puts the patient at the centre. We must never lose sight of the fact that reform is first and foremost about constructing a system that can better serve the people of Northern Ireland who use it. This is not about the system itself, or anyone in the system and certainly not about any vested interest within the system. This is exclusively about improving outcomes for patients.”

The Minister concluded: “Reform and change are not the threats to our Health Service. What is a threat is a failure to recognise the gravity of the challenges we face and respond to them. I want our NHS to be able to conquer those challenges and remain true to its founding principles in the process. This is not a time to be overawed by the immensity of the challenges before us. It is a time to tackle them head on, putting the patient at the heart of all that we do and not seek to sustain a system that will surely fail without reform.”

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