Northern Ireland

Martin McGuinness: DUP ministers 'divided over health'

Martin McGuinness Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness said the DUP was divided over the management of the health service

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said he is seeking an urgent meeting with the chief medical officer about problems faced by the health service.

The Sinn Féin MLA said DUP ministers were clearly divided on its management.

Health Minister Edwin Poots has said he would not implement cuts that would "destroy our health service".

The DUP MLA said his department faced a £140m shortfall and he blamed Sinn Féin for not agreeing a welfare reform deal.

On 1 August, the NI Executive agreed to cut Stormont departments' budgets by £78m, with the exception of health and education.

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton also warned that further cuts, amounting to £87m, would be required if a deal on welfare reform was not agreed.

Image caption Health Minister Edwin Poots said he would not put patient safety at risk

Mr McGuinness said: "Health Minister Edwin Poots has taken to the airwaves to claim that he needs a further £160m for the health service.

"However, his DUP colleague, Finance Minister Simon Hamilton, bid for just £40m in the June monitoring round. Mr Poots was allocated £20m additional funding and £13m to cover an overspend.

"The issue of poor management of the health budget was identified by the Finance Minister Simon Hamilton during the monitoring round.

"There are real pressures on all of our health and public services which have been stripped bare by billions of pounds of cuts made to the executive's budget by the Tory government."

Patient safety

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show on Thursday, Mr Poots said that if the Northern Ireland Executive would not agree to allocate more money to health then they would have to find another minister to introduce the cuts.

Mr Poots added that he was not refusing outright to make savings to the health budget, but said he was not prepared to implement cuts that he believed would put patient safety at risk.

"I will make cuts, but there are certain services that I will not make cuts on, and the consequence of that is, we will break the budget by tens of millions of pounds unless more money is allocated to health," he added.

He said he needed at least £80m in funding from the Northern Ireland Executive in order to ensure that patients' safety would not be compromised.

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