The National Health Service is a British Institution that is a top priority for people here. It is a service that since it was founded has evolved to ensure it can deliver healthcare free at the point of delivery while challenged by growing demand and keeping up with advances in medical science and care. Factors include an older population, growth in chronic conditions, unhealthy lifestyles and access to new drugs or treatment regimes.
The DUP is committed to maintaining the NHSNI as free at the point of delivery and ensuring it can face those challenges. In terms of resources, the DUP has consistently made Health spending a top priority and in the 2016 Assembly election committed to £1bn more. This is why the DUP used its influence in London to deliver over £400m investment in health.
Money alone is not the answer. Northern Ireland has the highest spend per capita of all of the UK, but all too often only achieve the lowest outcomes. We need to invest more but we must maximise the results from our investment.
The DUP ambition for the NHSNI is that it is not lagging but leading on healthcare in the United Kingdom. This can be fulfilled by investing and reforming.
The DUP used its influence in the last Parliament to deliver real investment in real lives.
Funding from the Confidence and Supply Agreement has proved essential to allow people on waiting lists to be seen, deliver new services and reform NHSNI. As well as allocations for immediate in-year pressures, £200 million was secured for modernising, improving and reforming our health services. The £100 million in the first year was invested in a range of transformation initiatives in the following areas:
This real investment has occurred all over Northern Ireland. Tangible examples include Day Case Elective Care Centres for varicose veins in Lagan Valley and Omagh, cataract operations at the Mid Ulster, Downpatrick and South Tyrone Hospitals, a new HIV prevention clinic and £6.4m for enhancing the nursing and midwifery workforce.
A number of mental health projects were funded including suicide prevention, talking therapies, substance misuse and forensic mental health services. Multi-Agency Triage has been introduced involving two police officers, a mental health nurse and a paramedic working together to respond to people with mental health problems, and new crisis intervention/ de-escalation services are being trialled in Londonderry and Belfast.
In 2019-20 this real investment in real lives included:
The investment from the Confidence and Supply Agreement is providing a further £50 million specifically to mental health over five years. In the first year this resulted in:
The DUP will increase spend on health by at least £1 billion by the end of the Assembly term in 2021, with the budgetary and commissioning cycle extended to three years. This will include:
The DUP will support:
The DUP is committed to:
The new facilities and services the DUP will develop are:
For cancer patients this will include:
The NHSNI will be built around:
At a community and home level the DUP will implement:
For vulnerable and older people this will include:
Many of the new services will relieve pressures on our GPs but in addition the DUP will:
Transformative technologies such as AI, the Internet of Things and Blockchain offer the potential to improve services and research. Healthcare data affords us enormous opportunities in terms of predictive analytics and the evolution of personalised medicine.
Data can help with understanding of disease including prevention and early detection, evaluating treatment outcomes and developing targeted approaches. This will include:
We need to place a stronger focus on prevention, health improvement and early intervention. We should continue seeking to reduce inequalities in health, and address the fact that 28% of children in Northern Ireland are obese or overweight.
The UK has the highest rate of childhood obesity in Western Europe. We need to improve health behaviours. Exercise and active travel should be promoted. For our babies, children and younger people the DUP will:
For the vulnerable and older people especially:
The DUP will also support marking National Emergency Services Day as a public expression of our gratitude to these vital services.
The DUP proposes additional investment to overhaul waiting lists, with the prioritisation of a solution for the pension accrual issue that is limiting the activity of senior clinicians.
Huge resources are squandered through patients fit for discharge requiring extended stays in hospital, awaiting confirmation of community care arrangements. The delays impact adversely on patients and ought to be a priority to resolve at a province-wide level. The DUP also supports:
The DUP proposes that open visiting should be introduced in hospital wards and care facilities. Evidence shows more flexible visiting arrangements can help aid recovery and are valued by family and carers.
A further indirect benefit may be an easing of hospital parking pressures. Older patients are negatively impacted by unfamiliar surroundings. If a carer is willing and able to continue their support during a hospital admission, it makes no sense to put barriers in their way.
Studies indicate involving carers increases patient safety, improves outcomes and contributes massively to patient and family satisfaction
In a range of international settings open visiting has proved to be effective and popular, with initial scepticism of staff diminishing through experience and collaborative common-sense implementation.
With a significantly aging population, we need to develop and agree on a fair, sustainable model for adult social care across the UK.
Adult care and support play a vital role helping tens of thousands of people every week in Northern Ireland maintain their independence and quality of life through support to remain in their own homes as long as possible, or by caring for them in residential and nursing homes.
It must reform though to be sustainable and withstand future challenges. While we work on a new national approach we must act locally too. The DUP will:
Northern Ireland has higher rates of self-harm and 25% more mental health problems than the rest of the UK. Over 213,000 are estimated to experience significant mental health problems as a result of the ‘Troubles’, and Northern Ireland has the highest PTSD rate of 30 countries Ulster University investigated. This requires a significant and long-term response.
The DUP will put resources behind its vision for mental health provision by setting out to narrow the gap and achieve greater parity of funding between mental and physical health.
The DUP recommends a preventative approach to reduce the extent of mental illness with a stronger focus on building resilience and coping skills.
New multidisciplinary teams in primary care, made possible by the real investment in real lives from the DUP’s Confidence and Supply funding, include mental health workers. Child and adolescent specialist support within these teams should also be considered.
Learning from patient feedback needs to be harnessed and utilised to adapt and enhance services. Sanctuaries have been developed in Manchester and Bristol and offer a home-like environment for those suffering severe emotional distress. They are somewhere people can go out of regular working hours which feels safe, and where they can relax.
Psychological trauma occurs everywhere but the terrorist campaigns have magnified the suffering of so many. It was a DUP Minister who announced the establishment of a regional mental trauma service and we want to see this crucial service operational, fully-resourced and developing expertise and knowledge that can be shared internationally.
All parts of our NHS need to transform if we are to maintain the commitment to healthcare free for all at the point of delivery. The DUP believes all our mental health services should operate on a single Northern Ireland service model, so all patients can have the same expectations. A number of specialist regional services could be established and developed to provide for the whole of Northern Ireland, such as:
Our priorities for children and young people will be:
Our priorities for communities will be:
Our priorities for all patients and services will be:
The ill-thought out, badly drafted and unwisely enacted changes to Northern Ireland’s abortion laws have created a dangerous precedent and policy vacuum. The DUP wants:
Legislation is only part of what must be done. The DUP is committed to promoting a culture of choosing life in Northern Ireland and this value must flow through into the support and services we provide. The DUP is committed to:
We continue to support Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill as introduced by Paul Givan MLA. This is a Bill to amend the Abortion (Northern Ireland) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 to remove the ground for an abortion in cases of severe fetal impairment.
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