Health Minister, Simon Hamilton, discussed the prospect of health service reform during today’s Question Time. Members expressed concern over the service in light of the Chief Medical Officer’s report that changes are required. The Minister agrees with the Chief Medical Officer’s comments saying “The Chief Medical Officer and I are in agreement about the need for reform. His comments reflect the findings of reports like Transforming Your Care and, more recently, that by Sir Liam Donaldson. His report is clear that reform of health and social care services is required to meet the future health and social care needs of the citizens of Northern Ireland. ”. Mr Hamilton made it clear that he intends to foster an environment of innovation and constant change for the better. A strategic leadership group has been formed to support this culture with person-centred care as the focus of reform.
Brenda Hale asked the Minister about the steps being taken to tackle rates of suicide in Northern Ireland. Mr Hamilton said that suicide prevention programmes are regularly updated to keep up with internationally emerging evidence for best practice. Suicide prevention services and initiatives include: Lifeline crisis de-escalation; counselling; training and awareness raising; improved in-patient safety; psychiatry services in hospital emergency departments; bereavement support; suicide cluster emergency response; local research; the self-harm registry; mental health crisis response teams; and self-harm intervention. Suicide rates have not fluctuated greatly since 2006 and the Minister believes that the fact that they have not risen during the economic downturn may be a positive sign that initiatives are working. He did however counter that “rates can fluctuate from year to year, and, given the very wide range of influences on suicidal behaviour, it is not possible to assess the impact of a single strategy on suicide rates.”
Throughout Question Time the Minister also addressed topics such as the GP unit at Bangor Community Hospital, the minor injuries unit in Armagh and grants awarded to the community and voluntary sector.