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DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley said the publication of an elective care framework to tackle waiting lists must be backed up by a practical demonstration of commitment from all parties and that a Minister must be in place to deliver it.

The DUP MLA is a member of the Assembly’s Health Committee and he said, “The plan announced by the Health Minister is an indication from the Executive of the significant challenges which continue to face our Health Service. Having outlined the plan, the public will now want to see a practical demonstration of that commitment from all parties within the Executive.

A report will not be delivered without a Minister in place and a collective will from across the Executive. In 2017 Michelle O’Neill launched an elective care plan less than a month before an Assembly election which then saw her refuse to allow any Minister to implement it for nearly three years.

The Covid pandemic has not created the waiting list problem in Northern Ireland, but it has exacerbated it. Action is not just necessary on behalf of every one of the 330,000 people who are awaiting treatment, but for all of those Health Service staff. Taking serious action on waiting lists must be part of properly demonstrating our gratitude to them.

Action to tackle missed appointments, and ‘megaclinics’ for certain conditions are sensible and practical steps, which will require support from patients. However, there has previously been a recognition and acceptance that the challenges of today and tomorrow require different answers to those we faced in the past.

Finding agreement for this plan within the Executive was not the most difficult challenge. That lies both in the short and long-term to demonstrate practical support for its delivery.”