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Can health and social care be transformed in a political vacuum?

4th December 2017

Health is one of those touchstone issues, it affects us all and we all have an opinon on it. It is a policy area in which we focus and specialise, partly because we enjoy doing so, and also because it is an area on which the MWA team is passionate. We work with a range of health sector clients and we host events like today’s which asked the question Can health and social care be transformed in a political vacuum? 

The event in the MAC attracted more than 80 attendees who heard from a panel that included Deirdre Heenan, Duane Farrell from Age NI, Dr Sean McGovern Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Siobhan McEntee RCGP, and David Gordon, Director of Communications for the Department of Health, in his first foray into the public domain since taking on this role. 

After opening positions from the panel our Chair, the BBC’s health correspondent Marie-Louise Connolly went straight into questions, her own and those from the audience. The discussion was lively, largely positive and focused on a number of key areas.  

Is transformation all about money? 
Is transformation a short cut way of saying ‘budget cuts?’ 
Would having a Government in place make a difference?
Are we planning properly for the long term demographic changes which are happening? 

There were a smattering of politicians in the audience, from the SDLP and Sinn Fein (all parties were invited to attend), trade unions were represented and so were most of the third sector organisations who work in or deliver health services. We had clinicians, consultants, mental health advocates and private health care managers. We had a representative of the Bengoa panel, Mark Taylor was called upon and expressed frustration at the lack of progress since the publication of that potentially landmark report. 

There were no easy answers but some consensus on the need for honest conversations, on the realities of budgetary constraints and on the excellent work delivered by front line health workers. There was agreement too on the need for different elements of the health service to work better together. 

Among the audience there was a generally expressed frustration at the lack of an Assembly and political accountability, though notably that feeling didn't have the same weight from the panel. 

There was also a broad acknowledgement that money is not the sole answer to the problems in the health service. We know resources form part of the answer but so too does the targeting and investment of those resources. 

There were questions aplenty today, there were some answers and insights too.

Management and delivery of health is an ongoing conversation. MW Advocate will be right in the middle of it. 

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