A Westminster Committee report by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC) has found key services in Northern Ireland risk "deteriorating to the point of collapse" without a long-term funding strategy to support transformation.

One of the key findings of the NIAC was that the "transformation of Northern Ireland's health and social care services is long overdue".

The report found services in Northern Ireland, "in particular cancer, social care and mental health", were "lacking adequate financial support or strategic guidance" with the result that they were struggling to meet the needs of an ageing population.

Decisions over health services in Northern Ireland are the responsibility of Northern Ireland Executive Health Minister but if the Northern Ireland Assembly is not formed by the end of the year, the Government will need to take action, according to the committee.

The report called on the Department of Health to "do more to demonstrate its commitment to developing long-term strategies" for the services. It also called on the Department of Health to take immediate action to tackle "acute issues facing the health service", including cancer waiting times, shortages in social care staffing and inadequate mental health funding.

NIAC Chair Simon Hoare said the health service in Northern Ireland was falling behind the rest of the UK, with an approach to funding that "simply keeps things ticking over" and an "absence of over-arching strategy in key areas". He said these factors had left services at breaking point.

NIAC called on the Government to set three year minimum budget allocations and to give more regular updates on the progress in developing strategies in key areas.

A Government spokesperson said health and social care services in Northern Ireland are "a devolved matter", adding that Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith had visited a number of health and social care facilities and "fully understands the pressures that the sectors are facing".

The spokesperson said: "That is why he is doing everything he can to get the Stormont institutions back up and running as soon as possible, in order that local politicians make decisions affecting everyone in Northern Ireland.

"The Secretary of State will consider the recommendations contained in the report and respond in due course."

Last reviewed 5 November 2019