Minister presents a number of key initiatives
5 mins read

Minister presents a number of key initiatives

Tackling inequalities in access to healthcare must be at the heart of healthcare reform in Northern Ireland.


Health Minister Mike Nesbitt

Health Minister Mike Nesbitt

This was the message delivered today by Health Minister Mike Nesbitt as he announced a series of planned initiatives for the next six months.

These include:

  • The ‘Live Better’ health inequalities initiative, designed to deliver targeted health support to communities that need it most. It will seek to combine programmes so that they can be delivered intensively in specific communities. It will cover areas such as: increasing screening and immunisations; supporting mental health and emotional wellbeing; managing blood pressure and cholesterol; building health literacy; improving social connections; providing nutritional advice; and providing opportunities to be more physically active.
  • The hospital reconfiguration plan will be published for public consultation this summer. Towards a Hospital Network will underpin the current and future reorganisation of hospital services.
  • The three-year strategic plan for health and social care will be published in the autumn and will cover the rest of the Assembly’s term.
  • To help refocus and ‘restart’ healthcare reform, Professor Rafael Bengoa will return to Northern Ireland in the autumn for a major conference and a range of other engagements. An international health expert, Professor Bengoa chaired the panel that produced the 2016 report Systems not Structures on changes in health and social care.

The Health Minister said today: “I am delighted that Professor Bengoa has accepted my invitation to come and visit in the autumn. This is not about another review of our health service. It is about helping to assess the important work that has been undertaken and is underway, and to identify the key strands of action that are now required. It is about finding the best ways to accelerate the process of change.

“I believe Professor Bengoa will help to re-ignite the public debate on health care reform. Unfortunately, the debate has become increasingly distorted, with reform too often misinterpreted as a cost-cutting program or a plan to close hospitals. This defeats the purpose of real reform, which is to deliver better outcomes.”

Mr Nesbitt continued: “Tackling inequality in access to healthcare must be at the heart of healthcare reform and a priority for all parts of government.

“They are a symptom of wider inequalities that exist in society. Research suggests that only about 20% of health outcomes are related to clinical care. Other key factors include economic disadvantage, the environment, education and housing.

Based on data from England, it is estimated that inequalities in healthcare cost Northern Ireland up to £1.7 billion a year, including healthcare costs, lost productivity, economic inactivity and poor educational outcomes.

“First and foremost, I am concerned about the impact this situation will have on people in our community.

“To give one shocking example, how can it be accepted that women in our most disadvantaged communities can expect to live 14 fewer years in good health than those in the least disadvantaged communities? A quarter of the way to 21saint Century, this is simply unacceptable in a first world country.”

The Minister of Health detailed his initiatives on health and social care in a written ministerial statement to the Assembly.

The Ministerial Statement also provides an update on the Department of Health’s response to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services in Northern Ireland.

The Department is today publishing a summary and analysis of the responses to the public consultation on this review.

The Minister’s formal response to the recommendations contained in the Review will be published in the autumn.

The Minister will also work with colleagues in the Executive on the review’s recommendations, which are cross-cutting and relate to the policy responsibilities of other departments. These include the establishment of the Children and Families Arm’s Length Body (ALB), the appointment of a Minister for Children and Families, the expansion of Sure Start and the Gillen Review of Civil and Family Justice.

Notes to editors:

  1. The written ministerial statement can be found online: DoH 2024 Ministerial Announcements and Statements | Department of Health (health-ni.gov.uk)
  2. The hospital reconfiguration plan has been finalised after extensive work and will be published for public consultation this summer. The main theme of the document is that while every existing hospital plays a key role, not every hospital can provide all services.
  3. The proposal will therefore divide our hospitals into four specific types, operating as an integrated whole. These are: local hospitals, general hospitals, district hospitals and regional centres.
  4. The three-year Strategic Plan for Health and Social Care will focus on three themes: Stabilisation, Reform and Delivery. Its overarching aim will be to deliver better outcomes for patients and all those who use and depend on services.
  5. The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services consultation report can be found online: Consultation on the recommendations of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services in Northern Ireland | Department of Health (health-ni.gov.uk)
  6. For media enquiries, please contact the DoH press office by email: [email protected].
  7. Follow us on X@zdrowiedpt and linkedIn NI Department of Health | LinkedIn
  8. The Management Information Office provides services outside of working hours For media inquiries only between 6pm and 8am Monday to Friday, and weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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