Local woman on new health reform panel

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The former Chief Executive of the Southern Health Trust is part of a high powered panel appointed to shape the future of the Health Service here.

Mairead McAlinden, who was in the top post in Craigavon for several years, has been appointed to the panel of experts by Health Minister Simon Hamilton.

The minister said the panel of experts will lead the debate on the best future configuration of health and social care services across Northern Ireland

The panel was suggested by Sir Liam Donaldson in his 2015 report which said there were too many hospitals and expertise was too thinly spread.

It highlighted duplication and called for a simpler, more efficient system.

Sir Liam said the panel should be international and it should be agreed in advance to accept its proposals.

However, Health Minister Simon Hamilton did not agree, saying the panel should be mostly local and there would be no upfront agreement to accept its findings.

The panel announced last Thursday has two international figures and four more from Northern Ireland.

It will be chaired by Prof Rafael Bengoa who is director of the health department at the Deusto Business School in Spain.

He is regarded as a worldwide expert on health reform and has advised the European Union and the Obama administration.

Prof Bengoa previously worked for the World Health Organisation for more than 15 years.

Aside from Ms McAlinden, who is currently the Chief Executive of Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, there are two NI based doctors and another health service manager.

Mr Hamilton said: “We know that health and social care is facing significant challenges in the coming years.

“Our population is increasing in size and is getting older. More people are living with chronic conditions, unhealthy lifestyles are creating more demand for services and new developments in medical technologies and drugs are increasing demand and raising costs. “We cannot afford to stand still.”