The health service
Published 05/05/2011 | 08:00
The issue of the Budget has been a talking-point for everyone working in the health service.
The effects of millions of pounds of cuts are taking their toll - hospital waiting lists are rising, patients are being denied access to new drugs and plans to build new healthcare facilities are being put on hold.
There are those who would argue that the NHS can deliver - and major building projects can go ahead - with the money the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety was given in the recent Budget.
But equally there are many who believe the health service is struggling to cope.
Frontline staff are adamant that the health service has been pushed to the limit.
Of course, there have already been casualties - the most high profile being the planned radiotherapy centre at Altnagelvin.
Outgoing health minister Michael McGimpsey said he does not have the money to staff or equip the facility.
According to Mr McGimpsey, the only way he could fund the project was by removing money from other services - specifically domiciliary care.
A difficult choice for anyone to make - prioritise between cancer patients and some of the most vulnerable people in society. Whoever takes the health portfolio is likely to face even tougher decisions as they have to ration the services on offer.
Unless of course more money becomes available.
This is why people working in the health service want one of the two main political parties to take the health portfolio following the Assembly elections.
As time has gone on, the DUP and Sinn Fein appear to have formed an unlikely allegiance which could prove essential if the financial woes of the NHS are to be addressed.
"At the moment, we are being told there isn't any money for the radiotherapy centre, which may very well be the case," one NHS source said. "But you might find that, if Sinn Fein or the DUP take finance and health, then they might just find the money from somewhere.
"It would be quite a coup for the politician who is able to announce the radiotherapy centre is going to go ahead.
"But it is going to be very difficult for the next health minister to keep the health service going if they don't have a link with the Department of Finance."