Northern Ireland

Jim Wells says no need for political interference over operations concern

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Media captionHealth Minister Jim Wells said clinicians were getting on and doing their job

The health minister Jim Wells has told the BBC he believed there was no need for political interference during the recent hospital pressures in Northern Ireland.

He said this was as clinicians were getting on and doing the job.

Mr Wells was speaking in his first interview since it emerged almost 200 operations would be postponed due to pressures on emergency departments.

He said there was not a problem and the public should feel reassured.

Mr Wells was attending a public lecture given by former Health Secretary and Labour MP Alan Johnson.

The theme was the National Health Service at "66 and a half".

Current health problems both locally and nationally were discussed including the role of politicians within the service.

When asked to respond to recent criticism about his apparent absence over the past fortnight, Mr Wells had this to say.

"I only need to make any public statement to the media when I believe there is a problem," he said.

"What I saw was people who were too busy dealing with the huge surge in demand and who did not have time to have me following them around and they were doing a great job.

"And I was content they were getting through it and the statistics released last Friday showed we did get through it."

During Wednesday's Stormont health committee session, officials said all cancelled operations would be dealt with within the next three to six weeks.

Some non-urgent operations in Northern Ireland did not go ahead this week as a result of ongoing pressures in emergency departments.

Patients in the Belfast, South Eastern and Western health trusts have been affected.

The public were notified in advance by letter or telephone.

All of Northern Ireland's five trusts cancelled some operations last week in one of a series of measures to tackle demands on the emergency system.

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