Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland health reform: 'Tough decisions needed'

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Media captionFirst Minister Arlene Foster and health minister Simon Hamilton attended a summit on the future of health and social care in Northern Ireland

The man leading the panel which will help reform health and social care in Northern Ireland has called on politicians to be brave and be prepared to make tough decisions.

Prof Rafael Bengoa was speaking after a health summit in Belfast.

The panel put a set of principles to politicians who now have until 26 February to agree them.

If the politicians reach consensus they will underpin the work of the panel as they design a new model for health.

Health Minister Simon Hamilton described Wednesday's discussions as "very constructive".

The SDLP and the Ulster Unionists have questioned the timing of the summit, just months before an election.

Arlene Foster's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the four other main parties took part.

The DUP Health Minister Simon Hamilton announced the panel members in January.

Image caption Prof Bengoa chairs the panel for Northern Ireland health care reform which was set up last month to help shape future health and social care services

'Too many hospitals'

The panel consists of two local doctors, two health service managers originally from Northern Ireland and two international experts.

It is chaired by Prof Rafael Bengoa, who is regarded as a worldwide expert on health reform and is also a former health minister for the Spanish Basque Country.

The panel was suggested by Sir Liam Donaldson in his 2015 report, which said there were too many hospitals in Northern Ireland and expertise was too thinly spread.

It highlighted duplication and called for a simpler, more efficient system.

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