Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint; It's right to defend our health service

The Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has come out fighting in a bid to protect his department in the latest round of necessary Stormont cutbacks.

At a special "away day" meeting of the Executive today, his strong case will merit particularly serious consideration.

In today's Belfast Telegraph, Mr McGimpsey underlines the consequences of savage cuts in health provision. He states: "We deal with folk who are in pain and distress. Everything from children who need to be protected, to elderly people who can't look after themselves, and everything in the middle."

He underlines that "demand is increasing, but if the money stays the same or goes down, then the activity will remain the same. More patients will go through pain and distress if they can't get the treatment when they require it".

This is a powerful and emotive argument, and there should be sympathy for the Health Minister. However, there should also be sympathy for his other colleagues, and especially for Finance Minister Sammy Wilson, as the Executive strives to implement the £128m cut as part of the Chancellor's emergency Budget.

Everyone will argue that they have a special case, and no doubt other ministers will do so, but the health service is a major frontline area, and people really will suffer if there are significant, further cuts.

It is imperative, therefore, that the Executive should consider these matters as urgent priorities, not only financially, but for their social impact as well.

Michael McGimpsey and Sammy Wilson are able and respected ministers who are more than capable of working out a fair deal for all, and of delivering the right medicine for the health service.

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