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Health boss ‘is failing in duty on £113m cuts’

By Lisa Smyth

Northern Ireland’s Executive is today expected to make a decision on whether a £113m cut from the health budget will go ahead — without a spending plan from the health minister.

Michael McGimpsey was accused of failing in his duty as health minister after he refused to publish details of how the cuts could affect patient care ahead of today’s key budget debate by Stormont’s Executive committee.

In January, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson announced draft revised spending plans for the next financial year, which would see the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) being hit with a proposed further £113m budget cut.

At that time, Mr Wilson invited each minister to publish details of how the proposed cuts would affect their departments to allow Stormont committees and other interested stakeholders to consider and consult on the plans.

The Executive is due to meet today to rubber-stamp the proposed budget cuts despite the fact Mr McGimpsey has failed to provide specific details of where he believes £113m of savings could be made.

It is largely expected the Executive will approve the figure of £113m at today’s meeting. However, the final official figure will only be made public once the Assembly is informed of the decision.

Defending his apparent lack of action on the proposed budget cut, which could have far-reaching consequences for the already cash-strapped NHS, Mr McGimpsey said he could not be rushed in making such an important decision.

“The department's plans have not been finalised,” he said.

“I would be neglecting my responsibility as a minister to allow hasty and ill-judged decisions to be taken on matters of such vital importance.”

However, chairman of the health committee Jim Wells said providing full details about the proposed budget cuts would have permitted the Executive to engage in meaningful negotiations which could have resulted in a reduction of the amount removed from the health budget.

He said: “I think by refusing to provide the details, the minister is hoping he will not have to make these savings but his tactics are not going to work. I think he is failing in his duty as health minister.”

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