Press release

HSC75: Health Leaders in Northern Ireland issue statement calling for urgent political leadership and public support

Health Leaders in Northern Ireland call for urgent political leadership and support from every section of society on the 75th anniversary of the NHS

4 July 2023

As Health and Social Care leaders in Northern Ireland mark 75 years of the NHS and its sister organisation, the HSC, they are united in their call for strong political leadership and support from every section of society to deliver much needed change.

Speaking on behalf of Chairs, Chief Executives and Directors across the HSC, Michael Bloomfield, Chair of the Northern Ireland Confederation for Health and Social Care (NICON), said:

“Reflecting on the long history of the NHS, its many ground-breaking innovations and the compassion and dedication of our staff, we remain deeply committed to its founding principles. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our amazing workforce who have delivered wonderful care to our community over the past 75 years – most recently in extremely challenging circumstances. It is therefore fitting that this 75th anniversary is celebrated at this time, providing an opportunity to acknowledge and thank all of those staff.

“While the HSC has experienced many challenges over the years, the pressures facing our system today are immense: the political vacuum, the need for sustainable funding, increasing demand and significant workforce pressures, on top of the heavy toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know what needs to happen and we must now do our utmost to turn pressure into possibility. What Professor Rafael Bengoa recognised some years ago still applies: by building on, and more effectively utilising the assets already at our disposal, Northern Ireland could have a world-class health and care system. We agree with the Permanent Secretary, Peter May, that the problems facing our service are all fixable. Furthermore, in our discussion event yesterday, Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation articulated 6 key steps to help us move forward - these are strongly supported by our members.

“To realise this ambition, we must focus on a robust change agenda, with the HSC working in partnership with every aspect of society.

“Firstly, we are calling for urgent political leadership. Elected leaders, whether in Westminster or locally, need to act urgently to resolve the governance gap in Northern Ireland.

“Politicians must secure stable funding, invest in a longer-term workforce plan, and make the challenging decisions to ensure that we are using our allocated resources and assets to best effect. Working with HSC leaders and the public, they must agree and deliver a sustainable 'blueprint' for all health and social care services across the country.  Relatively speaking, Northern Ireland is a small place. Collectively, we should be able to get our arms around it and make those key decisions on reconfiguration without delay.

"We remain deeply committed to the founding principles [of the NHS]... We must now focus on a robust change agenda, with the HSC working in partnership with every aspect of society - Beginning with urgent political leadership to secure stable funding and make vital decisions on reconfiguration."

“Secondly, we call for health, social care and wellbeing to be a key focus in all government policy. Building a culture of prevention and investing in wellness is a cross-Departmental responsibility. By placing health and wellbeing at the centre of the Programme for Government, we can better address the social determinants of health and tackle the stark health inequalities that persist in our society.   

“Thirdly, we call for a step change in support to ensure the public and communities are empowered to take control of their own health: We must support people to live healthier lifestyles and embrace digital technology and community approaches to deliver better outcomes. Achieving this will involve harnessing the ingenuity and energy of both the voluntary sector and business. 

“For our part as leaders, we have a significant task at hand: we are working to stabilise services; we are leading a landmark rollout of digital solutions this year; we are working more effectively than ever as one system and we seek to support staff and build a more inclusive and enabling culture. But we are under no illusions that we have a long way to go to deliver the reform and transformation required for a modern era.”

Stressing that the HSC in Northern Ireland is not alone in facing pressures, Mr Bloomfield noted that it does have the advantage of being an already integrated health and social care system with opportunities for a collective policy approach.

“We know that failing to act urgently will have serious long-term consequences. The HSC has served our community well over the past 75 years and we believe with the right support it will continue to do so for future generations. The HSC belongs to us all. We therefore invite the public, patients and our partners to join us on this journey to ensure better outcomes across our society."


  • The Northern Ireland Confederation for Health and Social Care (NICON) is the representative body for the statutory organisations that make up the health and social care system in Northern Ireland. Its membership comprises all 16 Department of Health Arm’s Length Bodies. 
  • The Chair of NICON is Michael Bloomfield, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service. The Vice Chair of NICON is Jonathan Patton, Chair of the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust.
  • Follow us on Twitter: @NHSC_NI 

About us

We are the membership organisation that brings together, supports and speaks for the whole healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The members we represent employ 1.5 million staff, care for more than 1 million patients a day and control £150 billion of public expenditure. We promote collaboration and partnership working as the key to improving population health, delivering high-quality care and reducing health inequalities.