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10 months on, Department of Health costs probe is still stalled

An examination of spending by the Department of Health has not yet got under way — 10 months after it was announced the work would be carried out.

Last August it was announced that the health budget in Northern Ireland was to escape immediate spending cuts by agreeing to an external examination to find potential future savings.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson also said that if the Performance Efficiency and Delivery Unit (PEDU) — a body that examines spending in Government departments — found the NHS needs more money other Government departments will be expected to make up the shortfall.

However, it emerged at yesterday’s health committee meeting at Stormont that the scrutiny process has yet to begin.

Andrew McCormick, permanent secretary of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS), revealed terms of reference are still being drawn up.

It is understood PEDU will begin its work within weeks. The process was delayed when former Health Minister Michael McGimpsey raised objections and would not allow PEDU officials to work in the DHSSPS.

Chair of the committee Jim Wells said: “PEDU could find that further savings can be made and then, of course, the department will be expected to make them.

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“On the other hand, it could be the answer the health service is looking for. If PEDU finds the department has done all it can in terms of efficiencies then money will be top-sliced from all the other departments at Stormont to make up the shortfall.”

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