The medical community is urgently calling for an end to ‘political gridlock’ in Northern Ireland amid the worsening crisis in the country’s health service.
The BMA has joined other health bodies to urge politicians to work together to restore the Stormont assembly to address the ‘unacceptable situation’ in Northern Ireland’s health and social care system.
The Northern Ireland Assembly has not sat for nearly three years following a breakdown in the power-sharing agreement between Sinn Féin and the DUP.
Following last week’s UK General Election, however, Stormont has come under renewed pressure to resume its functions, with a total of eight medical royal colleges and health organisations issuing a joint call for action.
These include the BMA, Northern Ireland’s Royal Colleges of Emergency Medicine, General Practitioners and Psychiatrists as well as the Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Radiologists UK and the Northern Irish Board of the Royal College of Anaesthetists.
In a joint statement, they called for decisive political action and said that it was time for patients’ needs to be put back at the heart of the health service.
It said: ‘Problems in our healthcare system have been building for many years. Despite successive reports recommending major change or face collapse, the situation has not changed for the better quickly enough. To reform our health service we need political leadership and sustainable long-term planning with decisions being made by locally elected politicians operating from Stormont.
‘We need this now – patients cannot be forced to wait any longer for the healthcare they need. Crucially, we must have additional sustained investment in health to help address waiting lists and other escalating pressures, along with a full and frank debate on budgetary priorities across our public services.
‘Events over recent weeks have highlighted just how precarious the situation is across our health system. Staff throughout the service are working above and beyond on a regular basis to ensure patients are being treated and cared for safely and appropriately but they feel they are at breaking point.
It adds: ‘Political inactivity over the last three years has contributed to this crisis. Although it is not the sole cause, the lack of an accountable health minister has resulted in decisions being deferred, blame passed around and sustainable transformation put on the back foot.
‘We urge political parties across Northern Ireland to put patients first; break the stalemate, restore our government and transform our health service without further delay.’