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Health service to benefit from £47m cash injection following Stormont deal

By Noel McAdam

The DUP/Sinn Fein deal will pave the way for 15,000 hospital operations and procedures, the Assembly has heard.

The health service was the prime beneficiary of the first share-out of unspent Stormont cash for more than six months, with an overall injection of £47.6m, which will also finance 40,000 medical assessments.

Maintenance of the roads and education were also among the priorities for ministers in what is likely to be the last spending round before the upcoming Assembly election.

The SDLP's Dominic Bradley asked whether the health investment would ensure hospital emergency departments, such as Daisy Hill in Newry, will have the staff to operate on a 24-hour basis "free from the threat of closure or partial closure."

And Finance Minister Arlene Foster replied: "That is a tremendously good news story for people right across Northern Ireland, regardless of where you live or access your hospital care."

Judith Cochrane of Alliance asked whether there were concerns that health trusts will be able to spend the additional money "this late in the year".

Mrs Foster, however, said that plans had already been put in place to reduce hospital waiting lists if money became available, and that Health Minister Simon Hamilton was "happy this day has come".

"People have been told that they will have to wait a very long time for operations and assessment. Therefore, we need to be able to deal with those people as quickly as possible," the Finance Minister said. "So, yes, we have been working on a plan."

Since the Executive has not met since early June, ministers never deliberated the June Monitoring paper, and the next due spending process for October was not commissioned.

However, Mrs Foster told MLAs at a special plenary meeting which was held yesterday: "I am now in a position to deliver a 2015/16 in-year monitoring round on the basis that the Stormont House Agreement will be implemented."

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