BY MARIE-LOUISE CONNOLLY
BBC NEWS NI HEALTH CORRESPONDENT – 28th August 2014
Former UUP Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has said lives could be lost if the executive parties do not stop playing politics with the health service.
The South Belfast MLA called on the executive to support minister Edwin Poots and find the funds he needs.
The DUP heavily criticised Mr McGimpsey’s handling of the budget when he held the post.
Mr McGimpsey said he believed Mr Poots was not bluffing.
“I think it’s very important that the executive get behind the health minister, and get behind the health service, and find the money that’s required to keep the show on the road,” he said.
‘Patients at risk’
“If they don’t, lives will be lost, patients will be put at risk, patients are coming to harm.”
Mr Poots has said it is up to the executive to make a decision on health cuts.
He blamed Sinn Féin for his department’s budget shortfall due to its refusal to agree a deal on welfare reform.
Mr McGimpsey said there were problems with the ambulance service, accident and emergency, primary care and elective surgery.
“All of that needs investment and if you don’t provide the investment, then you can’t provide the service,” he said.
Mr McGimpsey said Mr Poots should have spoken out a lot sooner, but possibly felt he was constrained by his colleagues within the DUP.
Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has suggested that a combination of a growing, ageing population and spending constraints will have a major impact on the health service over the next five years.
It calculated that if NHS spending continues to rise in line with inflation those population impacts will mean that spending per head on the NHS will be 9% lower per head in 2018, compared to 2010.
It described this as an “unprecedented squeeze”.
On Wednesday, the Ulster Unionists and SDLP called for the recall of MLAs to discuss the health budget.
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said there was “a proper crisis that needs to be met with a proper political response”.
Education Minister John O’Dowd said Sinn Féin had backed additional money for health and that Mr Poots’ management of the health budget had been criticised by the DUP Finance Minister Simon Hamilton.