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Dire state of Northern Ireland's health service highlighted

In the absence of devolved structures, politicians in Britain appear to be taking much greater notice of major issues in Northern Ireland and seem particularly alarmed at the state of our health system.

Those of us who live here are very familiar with the excessive waiting times and general sense of crisis that seems to be the key feature of health and social care in the north.

Westminster MPs this week expressed incredulity at what has become a dire situation for many patients here.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Tony Lloyd pointed out that the number of people waiting more than a year for treatment in England is 1,500 while in Northern Ireland the figure is 64,000.

He added: ''I can almost not find the right word to describe that, because it is so grossly unfair as to challenge all our imaginations.''

His dismay was shared by the Conservative chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Dr Andrew Murrison, who spoke about coming away from a visiting a hospital in Belfast feeling 'deeply depressed' because the north is 'not getting what it deserves.'

He said Northern Ireland was 'lagging significantly behind' the rest of the UK.

Dr Murrison's committee has been looking at health funding for the north and has identified serious concerns over cancer care, noting that we are missing out on early detection tests for bowel and cervical cancer that are available in Britain.

The MP also highlighted the fact that our cancer strategy has not been updated since 2008 while patients face severe delays in diagnosis and treatment.

Dr Murrison has written to the senior civil servant in charge of the department of health, Richard Pengelly, on these issues.

Meanwhile, the latest figures show that the number of patients waiting longer than 12 hours in A&E has almost doubled since September last year.

The DUP does not want Northern Ireland to be treated differently to the rest of the UK, yet in health services alone we have patients clearly being left much worse off than people living in Britain.

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