Press Release

No room for complacency as health improves for local people

Session: 2009/2010

Date: Thursday, 11 February 2010

Reference: PAC 08/09/10

Notable improvements have been made in the health of local people and must be sustained. That is one of the key findings from a report launched today by the Northern Ireland Assembly Public Accounts Committee.

‘The Report on the Performance of the Health Service in Northern Ireland’ examines the way health outcomes have improved over the past 10 to 20 years and highlights the particular gains made in the areas of life expectancy and decreasing mortality from cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Paul Maskey MLA, Chairperson of the Committee, said: “The Committee was particularly encouraged by the improvements in coronary care. Between 2000 and 2006, there has been a 28 per cent reduction in deaths from circulatory disease, including coronary heart disease. This is outstanding progress, and I am sure that the wider public will want me to congratulate the medical teams involved on their achievements.

“However, there is no room for complacency. Of particular concern to the Committee were the inequalities in terms of life expectancy and quality of life between people living in the most and least deprived areas.”

The Report also considered the issue of increasing diabetes, which costs the Health Service over £1 million per day. While the Department reported that it was addressing the issue by developing education and self-management programmes, Diabetes UK Northern Ireland reported that only 15 to 20 percent of patients are receiving such education.

In closing Mr Maskey said: “It is important to assess the approach and success of the Department in both treating illness and preventing its occurrence in the first place. Greater investment and targeted public health educational programmes could considerably reduce preventable killer diseases. Changing lifestyles that contribute to ill-health is also a challenge. It is a challenge we all need to face if this is to become a healthier society.”


Notes to Editors:
  1. An issue of concern for the Committee and reflected in the Report was the influence of deprivation on life expectancy. The Report shows that for every person from a more affluent background who is diagnosed with lung cancer, nearly three people in more deprived areas are diagnosed while the highest death rates from coronary heart disease are in those electoral wards with the highest levels of deprivation.
  2. A steep rise in the number of people who are overweight or obese has the potential to counter the gains made in relation to heart disease and cancer, and to increase the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes.
  3. The Report also considered mental health issues. Figures given to the Committee show that the proportion of the local population with mental health problems was 25 per cent higher than England and suicide rates had increased by 61 per cent between 1998 and 2007, with 282 people taking their own lives in 2008.
  4. Standing Orders under Section 60(3) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 have provided for the establishment of the Public Accounts Committee (the Committee). The main statutory function of the Committee is to consider accounts and the reports by the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland (C&AG) laid before the Northern Ireland Assembly.
  5. The C&AG is head of the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) and is empowered to investigate any area of expenditure and has a statutory right of access to all files and papers in Departments and public bodies.

The PAC Committee members are:-

Alliance Mr Trevor Lunn
Democratic Unionist Party Mr Jim Shannon 6
Mr Jonathan Craig
Mr David Hilditch 7,10
Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson 3,4,5,9
Sinn Fein Mr Paul Maskey (Chairperson) 2
Mr Mitchel McLaughlin
Social Democratic and Labour Party Mr John Dallat
Mr Patsy McGlone 1,8
Ulster Unionist Party Mr Roy Beggs (Deputy Chairperson)
Progressive Unionist Party Ms Dawn Purvis

1With effect from 04 March 2008 Mr Thomas Burns replaced Mr Patsy McGlone.
2 With effect from 20 May 2008 Mr Paul Maskey replaced Mr John O'Dowd.
3 With effect from 1 October 2007 Mr Mickey Brady replaced Mr Willie Clarke.
4 With effect from 21 January 2008 Mr Ian McCrea replaced Mr Mickey Brady.
5 With effect from Tuesday 27 May 08 Mr Jim Wells replaced Mr Ian McCrea.
6 With effect from Monday, 15 September 08 Mr Jim Shannon replaced Mr David Hilditch.
7 With effect from Monday, 15 September 08 Mr George Robinson replaced Mr Simon Hamilton.
8 With effect from 29 June 2009, Mr Patsy McGlone replaced Mr Thomas Burns.
9 with effect from 18 September 2009 Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson replaced Mr Jim Wells.
10 with effect from 18 September 2009 Mr David Hilditch replaced Mr George Robinson.

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