Belfast Telegraph

Funding boost for health service

Northern Ireland's health service is to receive an extra £30 million to help cover the cost of a rising number of emergency hospital admissions.

Under pressure doctors are treating more patients with complex conditions and the effects of winter - which can include increased cases of patients with flu- or cold-like symptoms and fractures caused by ice.

The social care system is also experiencing rising demand for elderly care at home and more referrals for looked after children.

Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "This money will be used to alleviate significant pressures by directly helping patients, elderly people and children receive the treatment, care packages and services they require more efficiently.

"The funding will be focused on front-line services and will directly benefit a large number of patients and other service users."

The money was given to the NHS by the Stormont Executive following a reallocation of departmental spending.

During the financial year, the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) monitors how departments are spending their budgets and can shift money where areas of greater need are present or if a minister is struggling to spend an allocation due to an unexpected delay in a major project or other reasons.

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton announced £35 million of loan funding to support the University of Ulster in developing its new Belfast campus.

"I am delighted that the Executive has demonstrated its commitment to this project that will bring significant regeneration benefits to that part of Belfast. This scheme demonstrates the Executive's ability to deliver innovative funding solutions that will benefit the local economy," he said.

He set aside £15 million to meet penalties imposed by the UK Government for failure to implement welfare reforms.

Stormont parties have expressed concern about how changes agreed at Westminster will affect the worst off in Northern Ireland.

Mr Hamilton said: "The Welfare Bill needs to be agreed as a matter of urgency."

Other reallocations included £24 million for the Department for Regional Development (DRD) - mainly for roads maintenance, £6 million for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and £2.5 million for the Department for Social Development (DSD).

SDLP MLA Fearghal McKinney said clinical negligence topped the list of health priorities for the extra cash.

"The cost of clinical negligence is putting pressure on front-line services, particular those aimed at our vulnerable elderly and A&E services," he said.

"Today's announcement that negligence topped the list in the Department of Health's bid for extra cash will dismay many who have been shocked at recent crises."

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