The Programme for Government signals a new departure
Health Minister Michelle O’Neill published the Bengoa Report and outlined her 10 year plan for radically reforming health services in Northern Ireland. Both indicate a new departure in government in Northern Ireland that is very welcome and necessary.
Like many organisations NICVA has constantly called for a more strategic and long-term approach to government planning and this is now what we are getting. We have also called for a unified approach to government and that is what we now see in that Minister O’Neill has the clear united support of all her colleagues in the executive for her plans which will transcend at least two mandates and a number of health ministers.
This unity of purpose will deliver better outcomes for people which brings us to the central thrust of the new PfG. Its whole focus is to shift towards the outcomes that government is trying to achieve like improving life expectancy and the quality of that life for all our people, not just the more affluent. Same for educational attainment.
The Health Minister has set out the Executive’s vision for a better, more effective service that should begin to assure people that when acute services start to be reconfigured and brought together in centres of excellence it is not the thin end of the wedge of local hospital closures but about saving and improving lives.
Prevention rather than cure is also going to get serious support as resources get shifted in health over the 10 years and this will have a huge beneficial effect on our people.
This is also an indicator as to the direction of the Programme for Government in general. Everyone delivering public services will start to focus on what they actually joined the service for – to make a difference to the lives of people.
Our approach must be, if our glass is half full, how do we top it up? It’s a time to be optimistic now as to what can be achieved even in the difficult financial circumstances that face the NI Executive and us all.
The Programme for Government consultation runs to the 23 December 2016 and more information is available here https://www.northernireland.gov.uk/publications/programme-government-consultation