Thursday, June 20, 2024

NI middle class ‘laughing all the way to the golf course’ as health system collapses, claims ex-senior civil servant

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Andrew McCormick, who is a former permanent secretary at the Department of Health (DoH), said the budgetary pressures on health here is “potentially extremely serious”.

It comes as Health Minister Mike Nesbitt is set to rebel against cuts to his department which the other Executive parties voted for.

Meanwhile, half of Northern Ireland patients wait more than a year for treatment compared to just 4% in England.

Last month, Robin Swann, who stepped down as Health Minister to run as a UUP candidate in South Antrim in the General Election, voted against the Executive’s own budget.

His party leader Doug Beattie said he “won’t implement catastrophic cuts” of around £400m to the health service.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show, Mr McCormick argued that revenue raising should be brought into force by the Executive to help reduce health waiting lists.

“This is potentially extremely serious,” he said. “It is a symptom of how bad things have been allowed to get on health.

“I have to say, I find it absolutely incredible that people continually say it is not acceptable to raise any additional revenue but it is acceptable to allow people to suffer on health waiting lists.

“I can’t get my head around that at all.”

When it was put to Mr McCormick that there is a cost of living crisis and people need to be protected, he said: “There are plenty of people well able to pay more. Plenty of people who see the lifestyle in Northern Ireland. Many people are laughing all the way to the golf course about this.”

Mr McCormick said revenue raising could be implemented in the regional rate, water charges and students fees, but can be done in a “way that is sensitive to the issue of ability to pay”.

“The cap on the rates is an anomaly,” he said. “Changing it wouldn’t raise much so everyone says, ‘It’s not enough and not worth the bother’.

“But we have an anomaly where you reach a certain value of property, you don’t pay any more. The people who benefit from that are the people in very big houses.

“There are other things that could be done to make the rating system raise more from those who are better off and to protect those who are – the term is – asset rich, income poor – someone on a low income but living in a big expensive house because they inherited it or whatever.

“There are ways to deal with these things. It’s complicated, it needs work, but there are ways in which more money could be raised.”

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