Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Simon Hamilton signs off on £1.5m of funding for new specialist drugs in Northern Ireland

By Claire Williamson

The DUP's Simon Hamilton has announced he has signed off on £1.5m for new specialist drugs for Northern Ireland.

Mr Hamilton made the decision after being reinstated on Wednesday as health minister.

The Chief Executive of Cancer Focus Northern Ireland gave a "cautious" welcome to the announcement, warning that more needed to be done.

The DUP are undergoing a cycle of renominating ministers within a week, and resigning again in a bid to protect the roles being taken by other parties.

Under the rules of Stormont's mandatory coalition Executive, if a minister is not renominated within seven days the position is reallocated to another party.

DUP leader Peter Robinson resigned all ministers except for Arlene Foster who will continue as finance minister during the ongoing Stormont crisis - sparked following the PSNI's assessment that members of the Provisional IRA were involved in the murder of father-of-nine Kevin McGuigan in the Short Strand last month.

The move came as the DUP sought two unsuccessful attempts to have the Assembly adjourned to focus on crunch talks.

Mr Robinson has stepped aside as First Minister and Mrs Foster is acting up in the interim.

The ministers were reinstated for several hours of Wednesday before they resigned again.

Mr Hamilton told the BBC Stephen Nolan show: "I accept it's not pretty.

"We wanted an adjournment of the assembly that would have allowed us to remain in post and taking all the decision we might want to take. but that wasn't supported by SDLP, Sinn Fein, UUP.

"We had to take it into our own hands.

"That doesn't mean that we aren't doing business.

"That doesn't mean yesterday I couldn't and other ministerial colleagues couldn't take decisions that were for the benefit of the people of Northern Ireland.

"We are not going to be in the business of punishing the people of Northern Ireland.

Mr Hamilton continued: "I was able to take decisions that were beneficial for people in Northern Ireland in respect of their health.

"i was able to release some funding to help release some pressure on our GP system and release funding, around £1.5m which will allow all NICE approved drugs and treatment this year to go forward.

"That's something my mail bag has been full of people writing to me about."

Cancer Focus NI is calling for a specialist cancer drugs fund to be set up for Northern Ireland and said more needs to be done.

Chief Executive Roisin Foster said: "We are pleased to hear there has been some progress in this area. This £1.5m will go some way to improving the situation for some patients but there is a much wider need for more specialist drugs that needs to be addressed.

“We are also currently awaiting the outcome of a public consultation on the unsatisfactory Individual Funding Request system which exists at present.

“Each day 25 people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with cancer and 11 people die from the disease. We are trying to get the best possible outcome for these people so they can live as well and as long as they can after a cancer diagnosis.”

Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin called on former health minister Simon Hamilton to "get back to work"

She said: “Simon Hamilton went to work briefly yesterday before resigning once again and fleeing his responsibilities.

"Patients and health service users need a minister for health, not a minister for half an hour. 

“The former health minister is clearly more engaged in stunt politics than working to meet the needs of all users of the health services.

“Mr Hamilton also continues to peddle the shameful nonsense that we should take money out of the pockets of children with disabilities and adults with severe disabilities to fund the health service.”

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