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NI Health Minister appoints review panel

26 August 2011

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Northern Ireland’s Health Minister said health services in the country are “unsustainable” yesterday (25 August 2011) as he announced an expert panel to carry out a review of how health and social care could be changed.

The review panel includes Professor Chris Ham, Chief Executive of England health charity The King’s Fund, and will include consideration of the future provision of primary care services and “interfaces between” different sectors.

Dr Ian Rutter, a GP for more than 20 years and a former PCT chief executive, is another panel member from England, and joins Professor Deirdre Heenan from the University of Ulster, retired senior civil servant Paul Simpson and Mark Ennis, Executive Chair of SSE Ireland, on the review team.

The review, announced in June, is being led by John Compton, Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Board. The panel will report to Mr Poots by the end of November.

NI Health Minister Edwin Poots (pictured) said: “It is clear that the full range of health and social care services is unsustainable in its current form if we are to deliver the best outcomes for everyone, and if we are to maintain the highest levels of quality and safety of the services provided.

“The review needs to proceed without delay given the seriousness of the situation facing our health services. However, it must also be evidence-based with robust analyses and conclusions on future service delivery.”

Mr Poots said the five advisers would bring a wealth of knowledge and skills to this important exercise. He added that there would be opportunities for consultation with the public.

“I would encourage anyone who feels they have a contribution to make, or who wish their voice to be heard, to provide comments,” he said.

Dr Paul Darragh, Chairman of the BMA’s Council in Northern Ireland, welcomed the announcement but added: “We are concerned about the short timescale. Therefore we will be seeking clarification as to how the consultation process will be carried out.

“We believe that doctors and their colleagues, working on the frontline of health care, are best placed to give the realities of the situation and know what needs to change to improve outcomes for patients.”

Mr Poots admitted he had set a “challenging timescale” for the completion of the review, but said this was because clarity was required “urgently” on the future direction of NI’s health and social care services.

“Our system cannot continue to operate as it has done: there are simply not the resources to do so; and action will be required to ensure we provide safe and effective services to the people here for the future,” he said.