No other issue impacts on every person in the way health does. In South Belfast, the Health and Social Care sector provides help, care and support to assist people cope with illness or disability or to live independently in their own homes.
I make no apology for calling for health and social care services to be protected. When the NHS was established, its founding principle was a cradle to grave service providing free health care for every man, woman and child. Given today’s current difficult economic climate, the need for free and timely health care is even more crucial.
In South Belfast the public values and recognises our health service. Many groups throughout the community rely on the health service to fund and provide key services.
Yet the health and social care service has suffered from years of historic underfunding. That is why the health service must be protected in the budget discussions. In South Belfast and throughout Northern Ireland we must ensure that we have the right services in place to help everyone, no matter what their circumstances or condition. That means that the Cancer Centre in the City Hospital must have the right levels of investment to deliver the most up-to-date treatment and care to patients.
But health is not only about hospitals. Social care is an essential element which ensures that people are supported when they come out of hospital or prevents them from going to hospital in the first place. That’s why it is so important that sufficient resources are available for care packages in the community across South Belfast.
Every year, the demand for our services increases. Our older population is growing faster than in any other part of the UK, we are treating more people in hospital and in home every year and the numbers of child being referred to social services is also rising.
We also look after those who suffer from domestic and sexual violence. On average, there are five people killed each year as a result of domestic violence in Northern Ireland and an estimated 11,000 children live with domestic violence. Many groups in South Belfast are actively working on these issues but they require financial assistance from the Health Service. Often we rely on the voluntary and community sectors to deliver a wide range of services. Without the right level of funding this will not be possible and vulnerable people will suffer as a result.
If we care about our health and social care service then we must protect it. If we don’t then we will have a second-class health service. This cannot happen and I ask for your support in my continued fight to protect our health and social care service.