Belfast Telegraph

NHS is out of cash, warns McGimpsey

The health service in Northern Ireland will not have the money to pay its bills from next month, the Health Minister has warned.

Michael McGimpsey said it was a disappointing day for patients after he was allocated an extra £120 million in the budget. He also has the freedom to use £69 million released from within his department over four years but had been pressing for £200 million extra a year.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has accused opponents of cynical politicking ahead of May's Assembly elections. The Health Minister has been accused of failing to do enough to tackle NHS spending.

Mr McGimpsey said: "From April 1 in business terms the health service goes into Chapter 11 (bankruptcy in America).

"We will not have the money to pay the bills that are going out - that is a very bad position."

The senior Ulster Unionist said he had already streamlined services and added that the Northern Ireland health service was the worst funded in the UK.

"The context is a massive deficit I am looking at. The Finance Minister is well aware of that but there has been no serious attempt to try and bridge the gap," he said.

He added: "I am extremely disappointed about the allocation for health. It is a disappointing day for the health service, it is a disappointing day for the staff who work in the health service and above all it is a very disappointing day for those people and patients who depend on the health service."

He said he was being pressed because of his allocation to introduce measures like charging to see a GP, visiting accident and emergency departments at hospitals, or charging per night in hospital, but said that he was resisting this.

"I will not do the Executive's dirty work for it. I will not lay off over 4,000 health workers," he said.

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