Summary

  1. The Health Committee received a briefing from departmental officials.
  2. As the budget information was not available, they discussed priorities and concerns for the mandate ahead.

Live Reporting

By Brooke Allen and Robin Sheeran

All times stated are UK

Good afternoon

That's it for our coverage of the Northern Ireland Assembly today. 

We will be back on Monday from 12 noon with full coverage of the plenary sitting. 

Until then, you can catch up with the latest political happenings on BBC Northern Ireland's The View, tonight at 22:35 BST and Sunday Politics, on Sunday from 11:00 BST. 

Have a great afternoon. 

Committee adjourned

Health committee
BBC

The departmental officials are thanked by Mr McKay before they leave the senate chamber. 

Committee members discuss a few items of committee business before Mr McKay adjourns the committee. 

Timeline for budgets

Mr McKay says the Programme for Government and Professor Bengoa's report will have "ramifications in terms of the departments and therefore budgets". 

He asks how they will be timetabled into the budget to ensure it is in there, "rather than the budget being agreed and then having to go back to reflect those changes". 

Daithí McKay
BBC

"We are still working for final confirmation from the Department of Finance about the exact timeline but the supposition at the moment is that the work will have to be completed by early September, in terms of the budget side of it," says Ms Thompson.

"As long as we are alert to these things and very much aware that they will inform where we are at, we need to basically just keep moving along the spectrum but I think it is all timetabled to ensure that at least we can keep ourselves aligned to those various deadlines as we move forward."

Pressure on autism services

Child
Thinkstock

SDLP's Mark Durkan asks about the previous allocation of £2m to autism services. He asks the officials to provide a breakdown of the money and what the impact will be. 

Mr Holland says in relation to autism, there has been a "very significant increase in the number of referrals and they are up by about 1,500 since 2010 and that has resulted in a number of people waiting for assessment".

"At the end of March we had 296 referals waiting more than the 13 weeks target time for their assessment, so there is definitely a pressure there," he says.  

He says he does not have a precise breakdown of the £2m but it will go towards two things - bringing down the waiting time for assessment and service redesign. 

Sharing best practice in GPs

waiting room
SPL

The DUP's Trevor Clarke describes how some GP surgeries are under more pressure than others. He asks if there was any potential for well-performing GP practices to show other practices why they are under pressure. 

Mrs McNeilly says there is lots of work going on with the GPs to support them and "share best practice". 

Closure of mental health services

Woman with head in hands
BBC

People before Profit's Gerry Carroll asks for an update on the proposed closure of mental health daycare services. 

Mr Holland says young people have been expressing that [daycare centres] is not the service that they want. 

He says: "Their expectations are now a lot higher - rather than go to a day centre for activities, they want to go to the same places you and I go to for activities."

Mr Holland says no decisions have been made about any closures but "all proposals will be approved or not by the minister".

What is the June monitoring round?

Money
BBC

The June monitoring round, or budget, is the allocation of unspent or under-committed funds across all government departments.

Air ambulance

Mr McKay asks about an update on the air ambulance service, as the announcement "came in the middle of the elections". 

Welsh air ambulance
BBC
Northern Ireland's new service is expected to be closely based on the Welsh model

Mrs McNeilly says it "could be commissioned at the later end of the calendar year". 

"The funding from Libor of £3.5 million is for set up and early service," she says. 

"Another million is dependent on the charity. It is flexible - they don't have to get it all spent this year - given the Autumn start date." 

Health priorities

health
BBC

The department officials outline their roles of responsibility. 

Mr McKay then asks the officials for the department's priorities. 

Ms Thompson reiterates the minister's priorities including "championing mental health", waiting times and "the importance of all-island cross working". 

"There are a wide range of issues that are all priorities and need to be taken forward," she says. 

June monitoring still 'work in progress'

Julie Thompson
BBC

Mr McKay asks department official, Julie Thompson, for an update on June monitoring as no official paperwork has been received. 

She says it is still very much "work in progress". 

"It is a very complex area, the time scales were very challenging and there's lots of issues that need to be considered and looked into, so we are not able to bring a brief on June monitoring to the committee today," she says.  

Briefing from departmental officials

Department of Health officials
BBC

Committee members are now receiving a briefing from departmental officials, Julie Thompson (Director of Finance), Sean Holland (Chief Social Work Officer) and Deborah McNeilly (Deputy Secretary Healthcare Policy), on June monitoring. 

In the chair...

As there are apologies from the chairperson and deputy chairperson, Sinn Féin's Daithí McKay is chairing this morning's meeting of the health committee. 

Major and Blair to make joint EU appeal

Former prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair will warn a vote to leave the EU will "jeopardise the unity" of the UK as they campaign together in Northern Ireland today.

John Major and Tony Blair
BBC

They will suggest a Leave vote may put Northern Ireland's "future at risk". But Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said support for the peace process there was "rock solid".  

Good morning

Good morning. 

Welcome to today's proceedings from the Northern Ireland Assembly. 

We'll have live coverage of the Health Committee from 10:30 BST, when committee members will receive a briefing from departmental officials on June monitoring.

In her first statement to the assembly on Monday, the Health Minister, Michelle O'Neill, said that excessive waiting times were "unacceptable".

But she told MLAs that in order to tackle the problem, additional investment is required.