Northern Ireland

More questions over Sir Jeffrey Donaldson's claims about impact of protocol on health service

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

SIR Jeffrey Donaldson's assertions around the impact of the protocol have once again been called into question with a senior medic insisting that the deepening crisis in health has nothing to do with the post-Brexit trade arrangements.

Alan Stout from the British Medical Association (BMA) told The Irish News that the only occasions his colleagues mentioned the protocol was in relation to it being cited by the DUP as a reason for not restoring the Stormont executive.

Earlier this week, Sir Jeffrey said access to medicines was "impaired and inhibited" by the protocol.

The assertion was made alongside a claim that the protocol had led to delays in life-saving heart surgery, which has since been refuted by the two health trusts named by the DUP leader.

The DUP yesterday declined to elaborate further on its leader's specific concerns about access to medicines.

Dr Stout said he had attended a three-hour meeting yesterday morning to address the "crisis in general practice" and that nobody mentioned of the protocol.

"The protocol and the supply of medicines did not come up once in that crisis meeting," he said.

"The crisis meeting was about support; about funding; about managing the demand, which is huge at the moment. It's about having some sort of political leadership and political accountability for the difficulties that we face at the moment. "

He said the issues that concerned his BMA colleagues were "not around supply of equipment or supply of medicines".

"We have real life, real time problems on every frontline that we have," he said.

"For me in an executive is the number one priority because we need accountability.

"If we don't have political accountability, and someone leading the public discussions about what needs to be done, then all healthcare workers and doctors will be held accountable by the public – and that's not an acceptable position in any way, shape, or form."

Sinn Féin health spokesperson Colm Gildernew criticised the DUP leader for his remarks.

“Our hospitals, patients and our health service staff are already huge pressure in the real world," he said.

“What our health service needs is parties working together to support them during a difficult winter."

SDLP health spokesperson Colin McGrath said the DUP needed to "stop playing politics with our health service".

"We have heard multiple claims around how the protocol is impacting our health service and other parts of our society and time and time again we have seen them debunked," the South Down MLA said.

"We should not be putting our health staff in a position where they are repeatedly forced to challenge claims made by politicians without foundation."

Mr McGrath said reform of the health service was being impeded by the DUP's continued boycott of the institutions.

People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll accused the DUP leader of "sowing division and confusion amongst the public".