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Tory cuts led to funding gap for NHS not Stormont, says SF's Michelle O'Neill

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Hitting back: Michelle O’Neill

Hitting back: Michelle O’Neill

Hitting back: Michelle O’Neill

A claim by the Health Minister that Stormont let the NHS here down over the last decade has sparked controversy.

Responding to Robin Swann's comments, Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said he should not be "blinded to the fact that the Tories have stripped this Executive of funding".

Mr Swann said the system had been run down so much over the last 10 years that a scramble was necessary to find capacity to cope when the coronavirus pandemic struck in Northern Ireland.

First Minister Arlene Foster responded by saying she was not going to get into a "battle" with Mr Swann and said no-one will take the NHS for granted following Covid-19.

Speaking during yesterday's Stormont Ad Hoc committee on Northern Ireland's response to the pandemic, Mr Swann said vital services had been underfunded, no long-term planning was in place, and "difficult choices were ducked".

"Underfunding and short-term planning led to staff levels becoming depleted," he said.

"Running health and social care on close to empty for 10 years robbed it of capacity, resilience and flexibility."

Asked to respond to Mr Swann's comments during yesterday's Covid-19 daily briefing, Ms O'Neill referred to the UUP alliance with the Conservative Party between 2009 and 2012.

"I know that the Health Minister and his party used to be bedfellows with the Tories but I don't think even he should be blinded to the fact that the Tories have stripped this Executive of funding over 10 years," she stated.

Mrs Foster refused to be drawn into the row and said that any funding from Westminster comes through a block grant which is divided between the rest of the UK.

She said: "Sometimes when you have something and it's there and it's functioning it gets taken for granted but I don't think anyone takes the National Health Service for granted anymore."

Belfast Telegraph