Aontú West Tyrone candidate James Hope stated:

“Recent Department of Health’s waiting time figures show that need for hospital treatment has continued to increase, steadily outstripping the ability of the system to meet it.

Hospital waiting lists have climbed steadily since 2014.

“From 2009/2010 to 2018/2019, demand for consultant-led new outpatient assessments has risen by 9.3%. Demand for inpatient/day case treatment has risen by 2.4% from 247,751 to 253,602.

“Increased need for hospital treatment in a system that the establishment has allowed to disimprove is a real worry for the whole community. Nurses will take unprecedented industrial action in the coming weeks due to mounting frustration of unsustainable workloads being foisted upon them.

“The Department’s Permanent Secretary’s comments that, due to insufficient funding of the health system, between £750m and £1bn is required to drastically cut down waiting lists are hugely concerning.

“Aontú shares community frustration with increasing waiting lists, the chronic shortage of beds, staffing shortages, and the lack of community care and placements.

“I am concerned about access to out-of-hours GP services. We have a strong community and voluntary sector which is forced to fill gaps in service provision due to neglect and lack of investment by establishment parties.

“We oppose cuts to existing services, e.g. stroke services in South West Acute Hospital. Aontú fully supports and stands with nurses and frontline staff in their industrial action. Unfortunately, nurses have been left with little option but to embark on industrial action in order to highlight the failures of establishment parties where the health system is concerned. There are 3,000 nursing vacancies across all health trusts in the north. Aontú views safe and effective staffing levels along with equitable pay as fundamental to the functioning of any modern health system.”