Northern Ireland

Simon Hamilton: Political consensus 'key to future for NI health'

Simon Hamilton
Image caption Simon Hamilton said the future of health reform rests with political agreement

The key to making Northern Ireland's health system world class lies with securing an agreement between politicians, Simon Hamilton has said.

The health minister was speaking ahead of a political summit to be held in February on health and social care.

"We need to take politics out of it as best as we possibly can," he told Radio Ulster's Sunday News.

"I think it is incredibly important that the political parties sit down and agree in so far as they can.

"If we are to get this right and if we are to deliver the world class health social care system Liam Donaldson says we can have, then we need to get political agreement."

Last week, more than 50 health and social care organisations called on Stormont politicians to take urgent action to transform the health care system.

Mr Hamilton has set up a panel of health experts to redesign local health care services, in line with a recommendation from the Donaldson report last year.

The panel is chaired by Prof Rafael Bengoa who is director of the health department at the Deusto Business School in Spain.

Image caption Prof Bengoa chairs the panel for NI health care reform

Mr Hamilton said the importance of political consensus was critical.

"What I think has been the biggest barrier to the level and degree of change that we have needed in social health care system... has not been a lack of willingness on the part of clinicians and those within the system," he said.

"People understand that change in Northern Ireland needs to happen.

"We need to get political consensus around these very difficult issues or else they are not going to go anywhere."

The health panel is expected to deliver its report by the summer.

You can hear more about this story on Radio Ulster's Sunday News at 13:00 GMT.

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