Belfast Telegraph

Wells warns of even more health cuts

By Michael McHugh

Health service savings already proposed are unpalatable and next year will be even more demanding, minister Jim Wells said.

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has to find £70m to break even by April.

Regulators have expressed concern about long waiting times at the Royal Victoria Hospital emergency department in Belfast and campaigners rallied against plans to close small units in counties Down and Antrim recently.

Mr Wells said: "Many of the actions arrived at by (health and social care) trusts are unpalatable and counter-strategic, but unfortunately the Executive has hard realities to face.

"I will continue to assess and monitor the impacts of these proposals to be satisfied they are the least worst solutions available.

"And while at least there will be a little longer to prepare, next year will be even more demanding."

Northern Ireland's only dedicated multiple sclerosis respite unit at Dalriada Hospitalwill shut next week until March and Minor Injury units are to close in Armagh, Whiteabbey and Bangor, while fewer temporary staff are to be used.

It follows the allocation of £80m this year by the Executive to the Department of Health, less than had been bid for.

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