Vital health reforms are delivering real change but must continue if we are to tackle waiting list and staffing pressures. That was the message from the Department of Health as it launched a progress report on health and social care transformation.

Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said, ‘We are clearly living through a defining era in health and social care.

‘Today’s report charts significant progress in the two-and-a-half years since the publication of Delivering Together, the 10-year roadmap for transforming the way services are delivered.

‘Without this push for change, the system would now be slipping over the edge into irreversible collapse.’

Mr Pengelly added, ‘Today’s report is a testament to the commitment and excellence of our staff right across the system.

‘We clearly still have a long way go, with serious challenges right across Northern Ireland. Too many people are waiting too long for care and staff are under immense and growing pressure.

‘These problems are serious symptoms of an outdated health and social care system that cannot keep up with growing demand. Without reform, they will get worse year on year. The long-term answer to hospital waiting lists involves reshaping services to improve capacity and provide more diagnoses and treatments. Likewise, staffing pressures are clearly linked to services being spread too thinly across too many locations.

‘Without reform, staffing challenges will keep growing and bills for agency and locum cover will continue to climb.’

The update report on Delivering Together details examples of projects taken forward and supported by transformation funding.

As part of the Delivering Together programme, public consultations are being held on reshaping stroke and breast assessment services. Reviews are also underway in other key areas, including urgent and emergency care, oncology, neurology, paediatrics, and day surgery.

The day surgery transformation has already seen prototype elective care centres opened for cataract and varicose veins. The department is planning a public consultation later this year on plans to transfer thousands of other day case routine operations to dedicated elective care centre locations.