Northern Ireland doctors call for change in NI health care
Doctors are urging the Department of Health to seize the opportunity to change health care in Northern Ireland.
While hosting the British Medical Association's (BMA) conference in Belfast, the chair is expected to tell leaders from across the UK that this is a unique opportunity for politicians.
Dr John D Woods said the Bengoa health review, due by the end of the month, was a perfect time for change.
"We need to improve how health care is delivered," he said.
"For too many patients - but particularly those with long-term conditions - their experience of health care is a series of disjointed episodes of acute care lacking integration."
'Brink of collapse'
The message will be heard by several hundred delegates, including some of the most influential names within the health service in England who are currently in Belfast for the BMA's annual conference.
Dr Woods said: "Reform is possible; currently an expert panel led by Professor Bengoa is reviewing the future of health and social care in Northern Ireland.
"The report of this group is an opportunity to reshape our health service. Its recommendations may be challenging but this can't be an opportunity which is lost, as simple opportunities have been lost in the past.
"In March of this year over 200,000 people were waiting for a first out-patient appointment - nearly 50% had been waiting longer than 18 weeks.
"We have GP practices, particularly in the rural areas of Northern Ireland, on the brink of collapse.
"There are significant gaps in many of the teams necessary to provide out-of-hours and acute medical care."
Dr Woods also said that there is a growing realisation beyond health professionals that change is necessary.
There is a groundswell of opinion that politics should be removed from health.
However, within Northern Ireland is that possible?
It's widely felt that it is possible in the day-to-day running of the health service with a chief executive taking control of the reins.