26/03/2012 Stormont Today


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont.

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Hello, and welcome to Stormont Today. As the sun shone on


Parliament buildings and the temperature soared outside of the


chamber, things were getting hot and heavy inside, as well.


He should call, he is the person who has not been able to deliver.


He is the person that one year ago was stalking the bid talks, I am


going to do this, I am going to do that. We have seen what happens


when you make decisions - absolute chaos, absolute destruction of the


NHS. And Colin last orders for


irresponsible drinking. The there are a small number who


are clearly on the wrong side of the law, and they now need their


irresponsible practices to become bitter.


My guest at the seizing his the BMA's Dr Paul Barrar, who is aware


A premature and wrong decision, that is how the closure of Belfast


City Hospital's A&E department was described in the chamber today.


What is your view on that closure? I think it is a positive sign that


this issue is being debated at the higher levels of our local


Government and the Assembly. It is being given the prominence it


deserves. There has been a long- standing problem with the provision


of emergency services across the province. We saw it in Ulster two


years ago leading to the reconfiguration of a hospital there


and withdrawal of acute services and the A&E department. These


issues are due to be addressed in the Compton review. In the short


term, we need to deal with the issue as it is and we have seen


demonstrated it -- seen it demonstrated graphically at the


Royal Victoria Hospital to stop a should the A&E department be re-


opened? I think there needs a look -- needs


to be a look at all those factors are of -- factors that contributed


to that incident, and that means looking at how referrals are made,


whether they be self referrals by the patient themselves or by a GP.


Those processes within of the A&E department, tree azure systems,


management systems, and how the A&E department to react and enter links


with a hospital. And how it operates, because that


seems to be part of the problem, doesn't it? It is not a question of


how many departments we have, but how they are operated, people


sitting for hours on end. Indeed, for example the number of


beds within other wards within the hospital will determine how quickly


you can move a patient from the A&E department to another ward. They


may be waiting to get to a bed in another ward in hospital.


The Ulster Unionist Party has called on the health minister to


resign. Basil McRae made at the demand to


resign during a debate on the Royal. Members were keen to hear what the


Minister was going to do to ease the situation.


Like the rest of the committee members, I was hugely impressed


with the demonstration -- demonstration of professionalism


from the medical staff. They are committed to dealing with this


problem and indeed the senior management of the Belfast Trust is


committed to dealing with the problem. The reality is, accident


and the beds they cannot cope with this on its own. I have commended


the staff of the A&E department, because I know they are doing a


great job, I have said the problem is not accent and dependency, it is


other parts of the hospital. The need to be supported by other parts


of the hospital. A unfortunately, the situation at


the Royal is something of a microcosm of an unacceptable


situation in A&E departments across the North. We have to ask why.


There are too many people presenting at A&E departments who


have no need to be there. At 2008 reviewed indicated attendances at


Kearney here were plenty-30 % higher -- 20-30 % higher than in


other islands. Mr Deputy Speaker, the premature


closure of the City Hospital has been a total disaster. Anyone with


a brain at all what will have known or should have known that some


40,000 patients will have to go somewhere. It is totally obvious


this was a premature and wrong decision. Certainly, until proper


provision was available somewhere else. And how a QC in 2008-09, as


compared today, the Health Minister of that you had an odd lift of some


�500 million. Where did that money go? -- and a


lift. How is it glad we got to the year 2011 and did not see the


improvement? We did not see the improvements, Mr Deputy Speaker,


from that time until now, and one would want to know how the money


was spent and where it has went, because I do believe there is


considerable money within the system, and we need to ensure we


spend that money wisely. We do not waste money within a our health


service. Wes Brown was talking about issues


to do with County Antrim. She said that heads Muzzle, I agree with her.


Heads must roll. He is the person who has not been able to deliver,


he is the person but a year ago was talking the big talk, I am going to


do that, I am going to make the decisions. We have seen what


happens when you make the decisions - absolute chaos, absolute


destruction of the NHS. That is what you were responsible for. You,


Minister, should be ashamed of yourself.


Minimum alcohol surprising and so- called booze buses have been in the


spotlight recently. -- alcohol pricing. During question time,


ministers said it was time for everyone to get at their Houses in


order. Irresponsible actions, be it by


those who sell drink or those who are the excessive drinking on buses


and coaches is something that this Assembly, through all the various


ministers, needs to bear down on. There are issues that clearly now


need to be addressed. In my meetings with bus and coach


operators and nightclubs I said very firmly that the media


spotlight is very much concentrated on them and there and -- their


activities. There are many good bus and coach operators. There are many


responsible sellers of drink, both in of seals and on sales. There are


at a small number who are clearly on the wrong side of the law and


the need their irresponsible practices to be curbed. I will be


bringing forward various proposals on licences in the near future.


The Alex at Lake then moved on to responsibilities of developers.


This issue about developers who are in development seeking planning


applications, who are getting planning permissions and at the


same time are leading to rack and ruin sites that have not been


developed for been abandoned during development is an issue I think we


need to address. At this stage we may be going as


far as imposing fines on developers who cease -- continued to trade who


failed to complete works in order to make sure they step up to the


mark and go forward. The Health Minister was next,


answering questions about community pharmacy.


I remain utterly committed to establishing a sustainable way


forward for community pharmacy that will make better use of skilled and


dedicated professionals to provide high-quality advice and support to


patients in the wider community. I also announced in the Assembly on


16th March that an additional �8 million of funding for 2012 has


been released and is available to support new services, improve


premises and support staff in rural and deprived areas. I have had to


proceed on the best evidence available. I know: community


pharmacies to agreed to participate in the surveys my department will


now be undertaking and to provide the farm at -- further information


that is needed. The longer this information is withheld at the


longer it will take to arrive at an agreed solution.


Can the Minister outline what steps he is taking to be in contact with


community pharmacists? As I am sure he is well aware, they believe this


falls short of what they had originally anticipated.


I would tend to agree that it does fall short of what was anticipated,


albeit perhaps what was anticipated was not correct in the first


instance. I have instructed officials to try to engage with


officials -- pharmacists, because negotiations were very much about


what had already happened in 2011- 12. I do think there is a huge


opportunity to move forward together to make proper use of our


community pharmacists and give them the requisite amount of money for


the services they provide. Can the Minister give an assessment


to on the scope for the efficiencies in administration and


management within the health service?


I personally think it is substantial. In this particular


case the savings we would be aiming for as the years transpire will


actually take us to around �17 million per gear. We should not


ignore that, because if we spend that sort of money on


administration, we don't have it to spend on hip-replacement, we don't


have it to spend on Accident and Emergency, we don't have it to


spend on new cancer drugs. By a member was here today is saying,


you should be spending on that on administration as opposed to the


other things. I am afraid I would have to disagree with those members.


I have to say I will be standing by my manifesto election commitments


and disagreeing with those members who want to spend health money on


administration. I want to spend it We were talking about drink, and it


is a massive problem in the hospitals, isn't it? Yes,


especially on a Friday or Saturday night. Gauthier Andy and you will


see the damage that alcohol can do. We're talking about assaults, road


traffic accidents and then we sometimes have people coming in


with the long-term results of alcohol. Do we have time to wait


for the review to sort these issues out? There is a sense of urgency


here and there is not seemingly a sense of urgency? There are many


things we can do now. Minimum pricing on alcohol, and then go to


the use of alcohol as a lost leader in some of our big shops. Alcohol


is too readily available. The BMA does not see itself as a killjoy,


we think there is a role for alcohol in society but that alcohol


should be enjoyed responsibly and safely. Sue Ramsey resisted earlier


that there are problems of other parts of the hospitals. What about


this idea that GPs should and have to go through a n d to get a


patient admitted into hospital and that might cut down some of the


traffic? That is something that needs to be looked at between


cranny care physicians and those doctors who work in hospitals. It


is certainly something we need to look at but it needs to be looked


at in the round. There is a lot we need to do. The Minister talks


about the shift on to them Compton review about shifting care into


private care. With people being treated at home? Yes, which would


relieve a lot of the pressure on hospitals and secondary care. But


to do that, it needs to be planned and managed and resourced. Prison


officers and the justice minister David Ford have reached agreement


on new working practices. The Prison Service has been plagued by


bad reviews and poor relations between staff and management. David


Ford told the chamber that was now coming to an end.


They have been a further review of body imaging scanners in line with


the report. On the basis of that review, I intend to initiate a


pilot of a full body imaging scanners as soon as the necessary


authorisation for use of this technology in prisons is obtained.


Caress him to outline on page four or, he refers to the further review


of full body imaging scanners will stop the Minister will be aware of


how emotive this matter is. Could he outlined a time frame and target


for the introduction of this mechanism and who does he need


authorisation from to go forward? He referred to the issue of full


body searching it as being emotive and it certainly is. The prison


service in Northern Ireland uses full body searching when necessary


in order to ensure the safety and security of prisoners and prison


officers. It is clearly something that we would wish to move away


from where we can provide that security without full body


searching. I can, at this stage, give no timescale for the


introduction of the technology. I can give a commitment that as soon


as licensing is agreed, it is my intention that they have an island


prison service will be able to make sure they can use the technology to


see how quickly it is possible to introduce alternatives to full-body


searching but the necessity is to insure safety. Good read as the


Minister did he receive legal advice on the conditions that can


be attached for present officers. Did he read the advice or rely on


some missions from officials? not personally read legal advice on


the issues of the severance package, I think it is entirely reasonable


that ministers should read officials but the point is about


re-engagement of prison officers, I cannot give him the news that 4900


applicants for the new custody officer posts which were received


by the Department, one comes from a serving a prison officer. If there


is not agreement on the uniform, does that mean the existing uniform


will prevail for all staff? I got a made it clear in response to my


first answer that the issue of uniforms for new staff may be


something different than what is there currently but we have clearly


established in this chamber in the past the precise detail of uniforms


might well be regarded as controversial as to require


Executive approval. Journey me now is the chair of the justice


committee, are you happy this will end the antagonism that has existed


between prison officers and management? I think the process


should be welcomed. Leadership have stretched themselves to try and


accommodate prison service management and that has required


compromise but ultimately the finer detail still needs to be worked out


but is moving in the right direction and we should welcome


that. A sign of the Times, the number of people applying for jobs


that will be indicated by people taking redundancy packages? 200 new


custody officers, they wanted to ensure that you are selected on the


basis of merit. We have changed the fifty-fifty recruitment, these


individuals will come forward on merit but it does show the


difficulties in our economy when so many people are applying for these


jobs but it is a job that is valued so I can understand the demand that


exists for it. What about the issue of uniform, when it came in?


issue has been dealt with and I think it is important that it was


resolved when David Ford race that initially. Peter Robinson made it


very clear that emblems and badges was not going to change and would


be subject to the be to we have in the Executive. That has been


clarified, it is important we get into the fine detail of how the


prisoners going to operate, the structures that will be put in


place, the environment you are working in so that we can focus on


those details rather than being fixated with a uniform. When it


comes down to the body imaging equipment that David Ford has been


talking about, how important is that any attempts to resolve the


Maghaberry dispute? That dispute is a long running one which needs to


come to an end and David Ford needs to stand very firmly on the


agreement that he had reached and should not be compromising with


republicans that are protesting over this issue. The prison


officers have made it clear that if there is technology that allows


them to do the same job as they have been carrying out, they will


support that. Ultimately, the safety of the security of those


officers is paramount to ensure that prisoners that have been the


past smuggled in Semtex, isn't allowed to happen again so let's


see if this technology will get a licence to be operated within the


UK but we shouldn't compromise the safety of the jail to facilitate


these protesters. But it won't detect drugs which is surely a much


greater problem for our prisons than a genuine threat of Semtex


organs being smuggled and? Drugs is rife within a prison population, a


significant issue in terms of the security of the present because


some prisoners alleged are allowed to have medication in order to


achieve a peaceful environment. That cannot be a sustainable way


forward in the future. Medically it would not be good for prisoners to


be taken of these drugs and that is something that needs to be dealt


with. Be careful what you write on social


media at be particularly careful what you write about politicians.


Especially if you are about to appear before them. That is the


painful lesson are representative of life in search and rescue


learned last week. They will also hear from the justice committee but


we start at social development and that cringe for the moment. I went


into your own Facebook page and you are less than complimentary towards


us politicians in at tongue and Duke remarked. If you are wanting


to work with people. Read it out. It says all politicians can kiss my


sweet ass. I would love to get on that particular invitation! I will


not be taking you up on that. have not had a lot of dealings with


politicians. I must say that that is not reflective of our website,


that is my own a personal page. When you talk about my, but then


you say we in the second part. is not the page for the rescue


organisation. That is everybody's starting point. What has to be


weighed up is the extent to which, albeit this is a person of bad


character because they have confessed to involvement and a


crime, you cannot rely on what they have to say. There may be


circumstances where in fact that makes them all the more reliable


but there may be other circumstances where it makes them


unreliable. It has to be judged on the individual circumstances. It is


a question that would be impossible to answer in a simple form.


reasonable person, having read the media reports of the court case,


and having heard the character of the witnesses which was revealed in


the court and knowing that you knew that the character of those


witnesses long before it got to court are staggered. The


predecessor, knowing what he knew about the character of the


witnesses, thought there was any chance of their evidence standing


up in court, how did that happen? As I said, all accomplices are


witnesses of bad character because they are witnesses of bad character


that they are winners his chair crime. That is just starting point.


You have to look at the evidence they give to see whether or not it


is supported by other types of evidence or whether or not you


could seek to rely on it. Did you sit down and analyse the cases that


had collapsed, dozens in the Eighties, did you actually go and


look at the transcripts and see what happened? I have done, yes.


When I heard about this case, I thought they were going to problems


because it was the same basis as so many others that had collapsed. Do


you accept this has undermined public support, no, public


confidence in the system, the fact we have had yet another one of


these high-profile collapsing of cases? Of course I do, it is one of


the reasons I am here, apart from the fact I feel I haven't


obligation to inform this committee in broad terms about matters of


criminal-justice. I raised this issue because I am aware of those


concerns and the figure is important that the complexity of


these situations be articulated and the public be assured.


Foreign trips, and the Assembly to the report and an explosion in the


number of all-party groups, all in a day's work at Stormont.


We regularly have visitors from other areas but we are sending a


delegation of now to another area which is Kosovo in the Balkans and


the Speaker he rarely goes on these trips himself, is going with Judith


Cochrane from the Alliance Party and David McLarty, the independent


Unionist. This is a building of the relationship they have had put the


last few years in the Assembly in Kosovo in which they have been


exchanging research and IT. What is this about I here about we have


some competition? The Assembly is going into the TV business, it is


starting up a series of monthly programmes which is running on his


website. Inevitably I don't imagine that it will go in for many exposes


of the politicians here but they do have some interesting expand very


stuff about had system works. Here is an excerpt of the work of the


education service in the building. So, the Allies for getting rid of


school uniform was 32. The nose for 12. The eyes when. We seem to have


had an explosion in the number of all-party groups here? Yes, this is


a more informal side of Stormont Live. We have as many as 22 all-


party groups, many dealing with were the manners. Some of them may


be more left-field, there is an all-party group on funerals and


bereavement, and another one on rugby. There is one on


international development, even though that is not a devolved


matter and they will be active this week because they have some awards


on Thursday night, I have been written as one of the judges, so it


should be quite interesting. Schools and individuals all in for


those awards and one interesting guest will be Ian Clark, the


subject about BBC documentary this weekend, from County Armagh who is


now an air in part of Kampala, the you gander capital and could


probably teach hour home-grown politicians a thing or two about


his approach to dealing with problems of the people he is


representing their. The budget cuts that are coming


down the track for the health service, particularly hospitals,


just seemed unrealistic by? Everyone is aware of the current


financial crisis and the challenges it imposes on the health service.


There is room for efficiencies and doctors will not shirk from that


responsibility but where there is a need for increased funding to


deliver the care the patient needs, then we will be advocates for that.


Where funding comes from and the priorities for funding is a


discussion for wider society and for connected politicians but


surely what defines us as a society is how we care and that that did


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont, and is joined by key people from decision makers to opinion formers to make the experience enlightening and entertaining.