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DUP South Antrim MLA and Vice-Chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee Pam Cameron has urged the Health Minister to listen carefully to the views of professional bodies on how to accelerate the process of tackling waiting lists for surgery in Northern Ireland.

Commenting after the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) outlined a 10-step plan to tackle soaring waiting times, Mrs Cameron said:

‘‘This is an extremely timely intervention by local surgeons. Their report underlines the growing crisis facing waiting list for surgery across Northern Ireland and the need for immediate and sustained policies to defend and expand service capacity moving forward.

The pandemic has thrown a spotlight on the impact of underinvestment in our health service and the collective failure by government to insist on the reforms needed to improve outcome for local patients. As relaxations take effect it is critical that the opportunity afforded by the Covid recovery to right this wrong does not turn into another false dawn.

The RCS Action Plan is a positive and ambitious template for change and I agree wholeheartedly with the particular emphasis placed on expanding the wider surgical workforce and enhancing accountability for policies to clear waiting lists.

It is clear that sizeable and recurrent financial support from the Executive will be needed to deliver on these aims in the shortest possible timeframe. The Health Committee has heard that £750m-£1bn will be needed to tackle elective waiting lists over the coming years. Crucially this figure will continue to rise unless the process of reform starts today, not tomorrow.

Covid-19 has taught us all to do things differently and often this has brought personal benefits. It is vital that the same momentum for transforming our health service is harnessed as the Covid-19 recovery moves through the gears. In this vein I would implore the Health Minister to engage positively with the Royal College of Surgeons and other professional bodies in the coming days to press forward with the case for urgent reform.’’