Gary Middleton on health service: 'This crisis is going to get worse'

DUP MLA Gary Middleton has warned the local health service is already under severe pressure and that he fears the crisis is going to get worse as the winter progresses.

Gary Middleton
Gary Middleton

Speaking in the Assembly this afternoon he said: "I want to take the opportunity this afternoon to raise serious concern in relations to the ongoing pressures within our health service, particularly for patients who are seeking treatment but also indeed for the staff members who are working tirelessly day in day out.

"There are particular pressures facing our Emergency Departments (EDs). It has already been mentioned here today - the messages to discourage people from going to our EDs.

"Obviously people should only go there if it is a genuine emergency but when you hear figures of over 95 people waiting within those EDs you have to say there is something badly wrong with the system.

"I have seen first hand within our EDs the way that staff have been under pressure. How they have obviously tried to support the people that are there and to see them as quickly as they can," said the DUP MLA.

Mr. Middleton welcomed Finance Minister Conor Murphy's allocation of £200 million in the October monitoring round to the Department of Health to meet COVID-19 pressures on hospitals, to tackle waiting lists and fund a pay award for health workers.

However, he said fundamental change in how the health service operates will be required to address ongoing pressures.

"Money alone will not solve the crisis that we are facing in our health service. There has to be a fundamental change, a fundamental reform, and we need to get on with that reform as a matter of urgency.

"As we enter in and continue through the winter period there is no doubt that the pressures are going to increase and we need to see a clear strategy, a clear plan, to ensure not only are the issues addressed within our hospital settings but the issues within our GP services," he said.

The Foyle MLA claimed that he knows of some patients who have been turning up at A&E departments because they had struggled to get a GP appointment.

"Day and daily my office is inundated with constituents who cannot get a face-to-face appointment with their GP and despite what statements are made in the media and this Assembly chamber people cannot get face-to-face appointments and if they do it's not in a timely manner and the condition they are dealing with gets worse and they feel they have no option, and I've seen personal experience, where they have felt no option but to go to their ED and seek advice and seek a face-to-face appointment there and then," he claimed.

Mr. Middleton urged the Department of Health and the Health Minister Robin Swann to 'try and break down the silos that exist within the health service, between GPs and between our EDs as well'.

"This crisis is going to get worse. I do want to just finally say that I am very proud of our National Health Service. I'm very proud of the staff in our NHS. They deserve better. Our patients within our society deserve better and we need to grapple it before this situation becomes much worse."