Editorial: Health crisis was forewarned

Long before Covid-19, doctors, nursing bodies and other health professional and organisations were warning about a looming crisis in the health service on these islands.

In fact, this has been foretold and raised repeatedly by health staff here and elsewhere, citing specifically the need for more recruitment, more training places and more funding, as well as for improved conditions to retain and attract more people here. What was happening has been obvious not just to the professionals but to the many patients struggling to access frontline services, or waiting often for years for treatment and surgeries.

There has over recent years been noteworthy initiatives by Robin Swann and other Ministers to address the crisis in health, including mental health, but the scale of the challenges, compounded by the Covid emergency, what the department rightly terms historic under-investment, funding issues and an NI Executive in limbo has limited the impact thus far. Some massive projects have stalled completely.

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Mr Swann warned this week that there was ‘no quick fix’ and that the COVID-19 pandemic has ‘ravaged health systems that were already struggling under the weight of demographic change, budgetary limitations and staffing challenges’.

Many people are having difficulty accessing frontline health services.

It will be a long time before this crisis ends, but it is an absolute necessity now that the NI Executive gets back and signs off on major projects. It also seems obvious that a huge increase in medical training undergraduate and postgraduate places is needed. No political issue is so important that it trumps helping to ease the pain too many in our community are suffering.