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Health should be a priority all Ireland issue

18 July, 2007

Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, North Belfast MLA Carál Ní Chuilín speaking after the new Executive's first North South Ministerial Council Meeting in Armagh yesterday has said that an all-Ireland approach to the provision of health care should be a priority.

Ms Ní Chuilín said:

"In the area of healthcare there is a clear need to develop greater and deeper working relationship across the island. Whether it is in the provision and planning of services, the development of centres of excellence or the efficiencies that can be gained we need to greater co-operation and harmonisation.

"There are a number of projects such as a Cancer Centre for the North West or the mainstreaming of access to out of hours GP services that can be progressed to meet the needs of people living in the border areas. There are also a number of other projects particularly around Child and Adolescent mental health services that are weak in both the south and north and would benefit from a joint approach. The are a huge possibilities and the potential for improving health for people across the island.

"One of the key issues across this island is that people who suffer disadvantage also suffer much worse health. There are huge health inequalities across Ireland, North and South. For example in the north people living in deprived areas are at a 33% more likely to die prematurely than on average; Life expectancy for men and women in deprived areas is 71.9 years and 77.6 compared to the average for men and women of 74.9 and 79.9 years.

"The situation is exactly the same in the south. Infant mortality and the risk of developing cancer (particularly lung cancer) is higher in deprived areas. We need a concerted effort to tackle such health inequalities and I believe that the resources and focus required can be best delivered if health is a priority for the North South Ministerial Council." ENDS

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