Health minister Simon Hamilton urges nurses to embrace reform
Northern Ireland's new health minister has urged nurses and doctors to embrace reform and not to fear it.
Simon Hamilton spent his first day in the post meeting nurses at a conference in the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald.
He said nurses were the cornerstone of the health service and praised their dedication.
"When we are talking about budgets and shillings and pence, we don't think about people who are every day doing fantastic jobs," he said.
"You have a unique role that sees you from the happiest to saddest times of life."
Mr Hamilton said he did not need to be in his job for "one day, 100 days or even 1,000 days" to appreciate the "immense pressure" faced by everyone working in the modern health service.
"Everybody understands and appreciates that, as our health service moves forward and we face the challenges in Northern Ireland and those faced by health services across the world, that we need to change how we do things - but we need to change how we do things for the better," he said.
"We shouldn't be afraid of change, we shouldn't be afraid of reform, we shouldn't be afraid of transformation."
He told the nurses and midwives who had gathered for a conference on Tuesday, International Nurses' Day, that they made "a wonderful difference" to the lives of people.
"Our health service continues to experience significant pressures yet despite this, nurses ensure dignity and respect for everyone they care for," he said.
"They are often the first person a patient sees when they come into contact with the health service and they remain in close contact throughout the patient's journey. The lasting impressions made by nurses underpin the continued respect and belief in our NHS and I thank them for that."
Mr Hamilton said that he was "optimistic" that health workers would embrace "the transformation and change and reform that is required to ensure that our citizens get the standard of health and social care that they need".