EAST Antrim MLA Roy Beggs has said he is “relishing the challenge” of the taking up the position as the Ulster Unionist Party’s health spokesman.
The Assembly member described the health portfolio as “one of the most important”, stating that its services “touch so many lives directly”.
And while he has no doubt of the challenges that ahead of him, the Ulster Unionist representative said he is very much looking forward to taking up the role.
He added: “There are a number of issues I will be focusing on; particularly those areas that are currently under review under the Transforming Your Care Consultation such as primary care, mental health services, statutory residential homes, prevention, early intervention and integrated care.
“But from an East Antrim perspective there are an number of pressing issues of concern such as delays at Antrim Hospital A&E, lengthening waiting lists, the poor condition of Carrickfergus and Larne health centres and the need to strengthen and expand the role played by local primary health care.
“In addition, the recent Transforming Your Care consultation document has clearly indicated that future of Clonmore, Joymount and Lisgarel residential homes is in question. I believe there is a need to continue to provide a range of supportive living options for those unable to continue to reside in their own home.
“As someone who has recognised the importance of early years in terms of improving educational and health outcomes, I welcome the increasing importance that has been placed on encouraging healthy lifestyles since the establishment of the Public Health Agency. This is a key area of work to address health inequality, increase life expectancy and reduce the pressures on the NHS.”
Mr Beggs also paid tribute to his predecessor, John McCallister MLA, for the “good work” he carried out during his time in the role.
“I will continue my party colleague’s record of ensuring that both the Health Minister and his Department receive the appropriate level of scrutiny through the committee and making sure that Northern Ireland has the best health service possible,” Mr Beggs concluded.