DUP MP Sammy Wilson claimed the Northern Ireland Health Service was ‘not underfunded’ and coffers from other departments in Stormont could not be ‘looted’ to fund it.
The East Antrim MP also slammed Health Minister Robin Swann for his ‘constant cry’ that the health service needs more funding, and said the minister had refused ‘to accept the its responsibility to solve these problems”.
Mr Wilson made the remarks after Mr Swann previously warned that attempts to rebuild the Northern Ireland Health Service risked being scuppered by a lack of budget.
Mr Swann said it was ‘hard to imagine a worse possible time to deprive our health service of budgetary certainty’ in a written statement to MPs providing an update on service reform.
A planned multi-year budget that would have prioritized health spending has not progressed due to the collapse of power-sharing institutions in Stormont.
The DUP is calling on the UK government to act to address its concerns over the Northern Ireland protocol before returning to the executive.
Ministers are currently serving in gatekeeper roles but operate with limited powers.
In his criticism of the Minister, Mr Wilson said the Department of Health was already receiving a significant share of Northern Ireland’s block grant budget.
‘The constant cry from the Minister of Health is that he needs more funding, while refusing to accept the responsibility he has as Minister to address these issues,’ the DUP MP said.
“The fact is that the health service is not underfunded. Last year, the total budget for departmental resources in Northern Ireland was £13billion, of which the health service received £6.45billion. A little less than 50% of the total budget.
“In other words, health has received as much as has been allocated to police, education, housing, universities, roads, environmental protection, agriculture, employment promotion and many other government services.
“The insatiable demand can only be met by further reducing these vital services.”
In his criticism of Mr Swann, Stormont’s former finance minister claimed the Department of Health was now swallowing up more of the budget than during his tenure, but said complaints and waiting lists were now in a worse state.
He also suggested that some of the service’s ‘problems’ resulted from ‘deliberate decisions made by the current health minister’, referring to decisions to close services during the pandemic and then being ‘too scared or unimaginative to demand that services return to normal as the Covid threat has diminished”.
Mr Wilson added: “The question for Robin Swann is, ‘What has he done to make the money his department receives more effective?’
“What new reforms has he introduced? What pressure has he put on GPs to return to full service? What plan does he have in place to deal with waiting lists?
“How did he try to cut costs in his department? What tough rationalization decisions did he make? »
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Swann briefed the Assembly on a number of initiatives, including his decision to commission a design plan outlining the future shape of hospital services in Northern Ireland.
He also updated MPs on the review of general surgery and initiatives to improve stroke care and rebuild the supply of orthopedic surgery.
But Mr Swann warned that ‘there is still a long way to go to fix our health service’.
“Not so long ago patients and staff in Northern Ireland had the promise of a multi-year budget, with the potential for longer-term planning and sustained investment,” said he declared.
“As things stand, we don’t have a budget at all.
“To prolong this state of affairs would amount to sabotaging the reconstruction of our health service.”
The Department of Health has been contacted about Mr Wilson’s comments.