We are acutely aware of the challenges facing the health service in Northern Ireland and, indeed, across the UK. That is why tackling waiting lists is one of the Prime Minister’s top five priorities. The performance of the NHS in Northern Ireland is not good enough, substantially because much-needed reforms have been avoided for years. Taking action to cut waiting lists and transform healthcare in Northern Ireland is the job of the devolved Government. For that reason, and many others, we urgently need the parties back in the Executive.
Over 500,000 people in Northern Ireland are waiting either to see a clinician or to have treatment, which represents one in four of the population. Does my hon. Friend agree that health services desperately need a working Executive to help address the huge problems they are facing?
Yes. Without an Executive, local leaders are not able to deliver reforms to transform public services, and that is now being felt in the most uncomfortable, undesirable and difficult of ways by people in Northern Ireland, especially by those on long waiting lists. Northern Ireland desperately needs a working Executive.
I share the expressed concerns about the lack of an Executive in Northern Ireland and about support for the NHS, which is struggling. However, as the Minister mentioned, we are seeing similar problems across the United Kingdom. If it is one of the Prime Minister’s priorities, could he not meet the leaders of the NHS in each of the devolved nations, and the leaders of those devolved nations, to discuss how they can learn from each other and perhaps tackle the problem on a wide scale across the board?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State just said to me that the British-Irish Council did not discuss health this time, but it has in the past. That would be a good forum for that discussion, but the hon. Member will realise that it is rather above my pay grade.