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Can Michael McGimpsey convince his colleagues not to make cuts to health service?

By Lisa Smyth

Michael McGimpsey once again finds himself in familiar territory — trying to convince his Assembly colleagues that health must be ringfenced.

So, will he succeed where he has failed before?

The figures themselves are stark — health in Northern Ireland is substantially underfunded compared to England, Scotland and Wales.

In August 2005, Professor John Appleby produced a report into the way that the health service in Northern Ireland is run.

And while he identified a series of inefficiencies, he also said more money must be invested in the health service in Northern Ireland. Mr McGimpsey has argued he has since addressed the issues raised by the Appleby Report and the health service is now much more efficient.

But, while he has implemented the recommendations laid out by the report, the funding issue has not been addressed.

Add to that the ever increasing population, the growing number of elderly people in Northern Ireland and the advances in medicine, and it is clear to see that the demands on resources are being stretched to the limit.

No-one, least of all Mr McGimpsey, is saying more efficiencies could not be found.

Certainly, in today’s economic climate every penny counts.

Savings have to be found and as long as the health service is expected to contribute to this there is going to be a detrimental impact on patients.

But cuts and efficiencies are two very different things.

Our politicians have some very difficult decisions to make but if they choose to make further cuts to health they must at least face up to the fact that the health service will struggle to cope and ultimately patients will suffer.

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