Question Time: Health, Social Services and Public Safety Tuesday 11 February 2014

Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Edwin Poots, discussed his Department’s actions to promote better health in inner city Belfast during today’s Question Time. Community support is vital in tackling health inequalities. A £6m investment is being channelled through the community and voluntary sector to assist the Public Health Agency in this regard citing the recently launched East Belfast health framework as an example of the initiative in action.

The Minister then provided the House with an update on the flu vaccination process in Northern Ireland and on the availability of cancer drugs here compared to England. The uptake of the flu vaccine among eligible people has been encouraging and stock levels have coped well. In regard to the availability of cancer drugs in Northern Ireland, Mr Poots said that he would certainly consider approaching his Westminster counterpart about the differing funding models “if the Executive and Assembly were to support me in doing that”. Replicating the system in England would see the return of a charge for prescriptions.

Mr Poots also answered questions on serious incidents at the Royal Victoria Hospital and on A&E waiting times at the Ulster hospital.

Royal Victoria Hospital was also on the agenda during topical questions. Cathal Ó hOisín was keen to ask the Minister how he is going to respond to the “shocking news” of patient deaths at the Royal due to delays and waiting times. Mr Poots was keen to stress that the patients involved were “seriously unwell” and that it is not yet known for certain how accurate the serious incident report’s findings that there is a possibility that more could have been done is at this stage. He was also keen to express that mortality figures for Northern Ireland compare favourably to those in England and that he has “sought assurances from officials that all appropriate steps and processes were taken”.

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