Letters to the Editor

Health Service requires urgent and complete transformation

Recent clarity around waiting times showed how far we have come from a health service which provides equal access to all regardless of means. Many are now facing no option but to go private if they can pay. Instead of preventing a ‘two-tier service’, we have to now reverse the process which has resulted in one already coming into being.

Waiting lists for neurology in particular now defy belief. If people are having to wait years rather than months even for urgent treatment, can we really say the service is being provided on the health service at all. People are having to give up work, attend emergency departments or even rely on paid carers while waiting even for fairly obvious diagnoses. While the financial cost to the public purse is ludicrous, the human cost is beyond unacceptable.

We are left with a health system which in many areas neither meets the principle of equal care regardless of ability to pay, nor the requirement to deliver timely diagnosis and treatment, accompanied by political failure to recognise it requires urgent and complete transformation.

Transformation does require resources. The last executive opted to starve the health service of funding by refusing to allocate all the money given to it due to funding uplifts in the English NHS to our own healthcare system. It also refused to countenance raising the money in other ways, even insisting on maintaining segregated services while failing adequately to control spending on everything from RHI to SIF. Any future ministers will have to get serious about raising our own resources to reverse the process which led to the two-tier service, rather than shirking responsibility.

However, resources are only part of the story. Expert reviews have warned fundamental reform is necessary and cannot be delayed. One of many core parts of this has to be a shift to multi-disciplinary teams in primary care who can serve larger populations than current GP practices and ensure people receive the care they need, while being put on an appropriate pathway swiftly – limiting the number of people referred on to waiting lists in the
first place.

This is no longer a matter of potentially reaching crisis point. The process of endless drift and unwillingness to make the necessary political choices means we are already there. We need now to be honest about the scale of the challenge ahead, and about the fact it is not just new funding we need, but a fundamentally new approach.

Alliance, South Belfast


Northern Ireland already qualifies as basket case

Former DUP minister Nelson McCausland’s  recent views about removing UK from EU linkage to the basket cases of Belgium, France and Italy, is somewhat ironic. Northern Ireland by many  measures already qualifies as a basket case. We are making progress but that is measurably slower than comparable areas in GB or elsewhere. Our poor productivity can be measured in simple terms – what NI produces in the week to 5pm on a Friday, GB will do that by Thursday and Nelson’s basket case France does it by Wednesday.

Examples of inefficiency abound, from having too much of a workforce which does not turn up for work reliably, having too many employees whose job seems to be preventing positive action, to a lack of ambition. This is not of course a blanket condemnation of all NI employees.

DUP and Sinn Féin have helped to maintain this position when the most positive thing they do is to go begging to Westminster.
The DUP continues to try to depose existing leaderships since Terence O’Neill and every one up to the current threat to dump Theresa May. No such thing as good honest competent government. SF continues to try to subvert normal society, with demands and actions which seem aimed at creating  irritation, while the areas where they dominate continue to suffer from deprivation .

What is the cost to us the taxpayer of all this inefficiency, or the non delivery of improvements, in health, education, roads and housing which have been  clearly identified for years?

There is an opportunity for the electorate to stop voting for the sectarian monoliths and improve NI by sending a message to the politicians that we deserve improvement.



Shop workers are people as well

I would like to wish Irish News readers a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. For many this is always an exciting time, but we know it can be frantic trying to get everything ready for the
big day.

I want to gently remind them to remember that shopworkers are people as well. They will be working really hard to make their shopping experience as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.

A recent Usdaw survey shows that every minute of every day another shopworker is verbally abused, threatened with violence or physically attacked. Shopworkers tell us that incidents are more frequent throughout the Christmas and New Year period when shops are busier, customers can be stressed and are more likely to take out their frustration on staff. 

Talking to our members who work in retail, I know that verbal abuse cuts deep. Many will go home after a shift upset about an unpleasant incident that took place at work that day and worried that it will happen to them again. 

That is why Usdaw, the shopworkers’ union, is running a Respect for Shopworkers campaign, asking customers to ‘Keep your cool at Christmas’.  It’s a simple message, but remembering that shopworkers are working extra hard at this time and treating them with respect will mean that everyone can have a happier Christmas.

Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers


Historic Christmas present

At this Christmas time once again, kind, generous people all over Ireland, moved by the plight of our homeless brothers and sisters, are collecting tents, sleeping bags, warm clothes and footwear to provide them with some modicum of comfort and shelter from the winter weather.
Our politicians, who should be working urgently to ensure the provision of adequate accommodation for all citizens, seem to be quite happy to leave it in the hands of these volunteers.    

Meanwhile, far from striving to solve the homeless problem, the administration in the South is fast-tracking its effort to have abortion very freely available in that part of the country around the festive season, a historic Christmas present for pre-birth babies. How many little Irish human beings are going to be made homeless and lifeless in the years ahead. 

Limavady, Co Derry


Incorrect assumption

Professor John Rooney (December 4) believes that we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit at confirmation and that we can receive a further anointing through the Charismatic movement – both of these points are incorrect.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit were largely possessed by the Apostolic band – such as speaking in tongues, miracle working etc – to authenticate them in the delivery of the inspired Word. These ceased with the completion of the written Word.

The ‘fruits of the Holy Spirit’ which are holiness, temperance, long suffering, love etc, accompany salvation when we ‘repent and believe the gospel.

Cushendall, Co Antrim

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