Ulster Unionist Peer Lord Empey has vowed to reintroduce his Private Members Bill at Westminster to restore health powers to Westminster and cited the news that local nurses have voted for strike action, as evidence of just how critical the situation really is with regard to the health service in Northern Ireland.
Lord Empey said:
“The announcement that Members of the Royal College of Nursing have voted for strike action for the first time in 103 years is a symptom of the growing crisis in our health service.
“The Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health has given numerous warnings about the state of the service, yet no heed has been taken of these by Government.
“With Stormont still deadlocked, and unlikely to be sorted out before next year, all right thinking people can see that urgent action has to be taken.
“Last week Sinn Fein said that appointing a Direct Rule Minister was 'not on.' Well, this was an attempt to use political blackmail to keep patients and those on lengthening waiting lists remaining on trolleys and waiting, for political reasons. It was an outrageous and callous statement.
“I have been in touch with the Public Bill Office at Westminster and have confirmed that I intend to reintroduce my Private Members Bill, The Department of Health (Northern Ireland) Bill, next month. This would provide for the temporary appointment of a Minister to help alleviate the problems facing the Health Service and enable some important decisions to be taken, especially in the area of budget allocations and workforce planning.
“I have brought this measure forward on humanitarian grounds. As soon as Stormont is restored health powers come back to Belfast, so there is no political plan other than to help improve the service and deal with the worst waiting times in the UK.
“I hope an incoming Government will recognise what is at stake here and act in the best interests of patients and staff. We cannot stand by and see further deterioration in this vital and highly prized public service.”