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Health Minister Robin Swann warns on cost of living crisis



Health Minister Robin Swann has warned that a cost of living crisis would have serious consequences for the health service.


He emphasised the link between deprivation and poor health outcomes and called for a concerted cross-departmental approach to the “extremely concerning” situation.



The Minister was speaking at a special health summit today, attended by health service stakeholders.


Participants included representatives from Royal Colleges, trade unions and professional bodies, as well as from Health and Social Trusts and other HSC bodies.


A previous summit was held in December 2021.


Today’s virtual event included discussions on both the opportunities and challenges facing the health service, as well on the main priorities for the system.



In his opening remarks to the summit, the Health Minister set out ongoing work in key areas.


He confirmed the launch today of a 12 week public consultation on the future of urgent and emergency care. The new 10 year cancer strategy for Northern Ireland will also be published shortly, the event heard.


On waiting times, the Minister highlighted the recently published interim report on the implementation of the elective care framework actions.


On the Primary Care Multi-Disciplinary Team Programme, he announced a way forward has now been agreed for the further rollout of the MDT model.


“There is further work to be done, not least on securing the budget necessary to progress the rollout at pace, however it means that GP Federations and HSC Trusts can now start to work in earnest with the MDT Programme team on plans for rollout in their areas,” he stated.



The Minister recalled that the summit in December had been held at a time of “extreme uncertainty and pressure”, given winter pressures and a looming Omicron variant surge.


He said: “Today, 3 months later, the uncertainty and pressure remain.

“Indeed, it feels to many that uncertainty and pressure are the new normal - not just in the health service but across society and across the world.


“There is no doubt in my mind that a cost of living crisis will affect health and social care in significant ways. Staff will certainly feel it. And the health and social care system will be impacted too, with an increase in operational costs, coming at a time of already very constrained budgets.



“We know only too well the links between deprivation and poor health outcomes, in terms of both physical and mental well-being. If households have to choose between heating and eating, there will be a long-term cost to their health. Poverty, unemployment, poor housing, and stress can all make people ill.


“A sustained cost of living crisis demands a sustained Government response, at both Westminster and devolved levels. That should include a concerted cross departmental approach here in Northern Ireland. The situation we are facing is extremely challenging and concerning.”

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