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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

NI public want to see government prioritise the health service in 2022

Citizens and public servants in Northern Ireland want government to prioritise the health service above other issues, according to new research from Deloitte.

The findings come from Deloitte and Reform’s annual report on government and public services, The State of the State 2021-22, which includes a survey by Ipsos MORI of 5,792 UK adults aged 16-75 years, including 420 in Northern Ireland.

In the report, people surveyed in Northern Ireland overwhelmingly said healthcare should be prioritised for public spending in 2022, with 70% identifying it as a top priority (68% UK average).

But Northern Ireland’s public saw social care and benefits payments as bigger priorities than elsewhere in the UK, with 39% highlighting social care for older people (33% UK average), 25% saying social services for children and vulnerable adults and 18% saying benefits payments should be prioritised for increased funding (vs 13% UK wide).

Feedback from public sector leaders in Northern Ireland strongly signalled a need for transformation of the whole health system with the opportunity for targeted investment to make real improvements in healthcare delivery. Overwhelmingly there was a view that this should be prioritised over other policy issues as Northern Ireland heads into an Assembly election.

Marie Doyle, director at Deloitte, said:

“Northern Ireland’s public sector has spent the past year dealing with the same pandemic challenges as the rest of the UK. But in the background, its political complexities and its unique position in the EU Exit continue to set the region apart. Both issues are likely to be centre stage in the year ahead.

“But there is concern that with all of the focus on the contentious NI Protocol, the pandemic and economic recovery plans, along with other pressing issues, the necessary reform will not proceed at the pace required.

“Politicians and officials agree that health and social care reform must be a top priority and while debates in other parts of the UK often focus on funding, leaders in Northern Ireland believe we must now invest in transformation across the system to avoid an unaffordable system into the future.

“Many want to see the ambitious proposals of Bengoa’s 2016 report implemented after a combination of the Executive’s collapse and the pandemic response resulted in progress being stalled. Whether there is the political will or structures in place to make this happen is the big question.”

Nearly half of people surveyed in NI (46%) expect to see inequality between different regions get worse in coming years against only 10% who think it will get better. One third (33%) expect fewer opportunities for young people to improve their skills, compared with 24% who expect better opportunities in future.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, as in other parts of the UK, people in Northern Ireland appear to have been left more pessimistic than optimistic for the future across a range of issues after 20 months of the pandemic.


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