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Health minister cuts bad habits

Published 01/07/2015

Simon Hamilton says he is hoping to improve his 'terrible lifestyle' now he is health minister
Simon Hamilton says he is hoping to improve his 'terrible lifestyle' now he is health minister

Northern Ireland's health minister has re-assessed his "terrible" lifestyle.

Simon Hamilton told MLAs he has tried to change unhealthy habits since taking up the post in May.

He said: "I think there is something about a stint in this job which makes you think and look at your lifestyle."

Mr Hamilton, a former Stormont finance minister, took over from DUP colleague Jim Wells, who resigned to care for his sick wife after sparking controversy with comments linking gay marriage to child abuse.

In his first briefing to the health scrutiny committee, the Strangford MLA said he believed health messages on obesity and diabetes were getting through but revealed he was reluctant to dictate how people should live.

" I am always very careful about personally dictating people's lifestyles because my own is terrible," he added.

"Although some family and friends have said to me since taking over this job I am very pass-remarkable about what people are eating and drinking."

Last month, Stormont's First Minister Peter Robinson blamed an unhealthy lifestyle for his recent heart attack.

The 66-year-old said his diet of fast food takeaways, lack of sleep and poor exercise regime had left him requiring heart surgery during a four day hospital stay.

Last year, DUP MP Jim Shannon revealed his poor diet had led to a diagnosis of type two diabetes.

Mr Hamilton's two-hour briefing at Parliament Buildings was largely focussed on budgetary issues.

He told MLA's the region could have a "world class" healthcare system for about £5 billion but warned that reforms were essential.

"I think around £5 billion of expenditure on health in the short to medium term ought to be enough to deliver my vision of a world class health and social care system. But, that can only be done in the context of successful reform of that system," Mr Hamilton said.

"I do not think deploying around £5 billion into a system that is not as efficient as it should be will reap the rewards that it should."

He also revealed he was seeking an extra £89 million to help boost his budget for this year but warned he was prepared to take tough decisions if the funding was not forthcoming from the Executive's June monitoring round.

However, the minister did pledge that capital projects including the new critical care unit at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital were not under threat.

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