Plans by health minister Michael McGimpsey to base a promised "women's hospital" in the top floors of a new health facility in Belfast have moved a step closer.
In June, the minister announced his intention to bring forward plans for a new maternity unit for the city by basing it in part of a new Critical Care building being built at the Royal Victoria site.
Mr McGimpsey said it was the best way of providing the new women's health facility in the current economic climate.
"Due to the severe cuts in my budget, the original plans for the women's and children's hospitals just could not have happened as quickly as I wanted," he said.
"I am keen to have this case progressed urgently as it represents a real opportunity to bring forward this much-needed development by about four years and at a considerably lower cost than otherwise possible.
"The business case contains new proposals which will ensure that mothers-to-be have all the services they require in state-of-the art facilities which will be designed to meet all of their needs before, after and during birth."
Mr McGimpsey said a review of the best clinical use of part of the new £143 million Critical Care building in Belfast has now been completed and a business case is due to be submitted to his department.
He said the announcement followed the approval of the business case by the board of the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.
It includes proposals to locate the new women's hospital in the new Critical Care building which is currently under construction and is due to open in the autumn of next year.
There are plans to locate post-natal beds and outpatient services on the top three floors of the Critical Care building.