Officials call for clarity over new health funding
THE Department for Health has called on Secretary of State James Brokenshire to clarify when it will receive funding after MPs voted to pass a Budget at Westminster.
The House of Commons unanimously backed proposals for the Bill, which puts in place financial provisions for Northern Ireland after parties here failed to reach a deal to restore the Stormont Executive.
In it, Mr Brokenshire revealed an increase in health spending of 5.4%. However, trade union Unison argued this effectively amounted to a funding drop as it fails to keep up with health inflation, which stands at 6%.
He told Parliament he will also release £50m of funding for health and education, which will be the first portion of the £1bn deal agreed between the Conservatives and the DUP as part of their ‘confidence and supply’ agreement to support the minority Government.
In a statement, a spokesman for the Department of Health said: “It has to be emphasised that health is facing very significant financial pressures.
“The initial assessment of the financial position for 2018-19 and 2019-20 indicates pressures of some hundreds of millions just to maintain existing services.
“In relation to the Secretary of State’s comments on funding from the confidence and supply agreement, immediate health priorities would include investment in waiting list initiatives. Early confirmation of additional funding is essential as our ability to spend effectively diminishes with each passing week as we move closer to financial year end on March 31, 2018.”
Introducing the Budget at Westminster, Mr Brokenshire said he was reluctant to take the step but otherwise Northern Ireland would run out of money by the end of this month without local politicians in place at Stormont to pass it there.
He added he remained hopeful an agreement would be reached between the parties that would allow a new Executive to be formed.
Despite numerous rounds of negotiations since power-sharing collapsed in January, the parties have not been able to reach a deal to return to government.
Secretary of State James Brokenshire