A senior DUP MP has called on Secretary of State James Brokenshire to give up on the “sham” talks process and implement direct rule.
Sammy Wilson was speaking after Northern Ireland’s five health trusts unveiled plans to make £70m of cuts.
Treatments, residential care, staff, and beds will all suffer as part of the raft of cost-cutting measures.
And with no functioning Executive in place, elected representatives in the Province are effectively powerless to block the proposals.
Politicians have criticised Mr Brokenshire for failing to release much-needed funding set aside by Westminster for the health service in Northern Ireland.
As part of the £1bn deal that saw the DUP prop up Theresa May’s minority government back in June, £50m was ear-marked to address immediate pressures on the health service.
East Antrim DUP MP Mr Wilson said his party has been pressing Mr Brokenshire on the issue.
He added: “In my view, the Secretary of State is abdicating his responsibilities by not releasing this money.
“He says he wants to see the NI Assembly spend that money, but he must know by now that there is not going to be an Assembly.”
It is not clear when talks aimed at restoring the power-sharing institutions will resume.
But Mr Wilson told the News Letter yesterday that he believes the negotiations are a “waste of time” and urged Mr Brokenshire to instead move to introduce direct rule.
Branding the talks a “sham”, the former finance minister added: “The demands and red lines of Sinn Fein are so unrealistic that there is not going to be an agreement.
“Brokenshire is not naive but I wonder why he continues to be optimistic that a deal can be done. He needs to get real and understand Sinn Fein’s game.
“While direct rule is not my preference, I believe the people of Northern Ireland will be better served by it at this time.”
Mr Wilson’s view was echoed by UUP health spokesperson Roy Beggs, who said it was “intolerable” that there is no health minister in place.
He added: “Some £200m is available to transform the health service, but without a minister in place that money cannot be drawn down.
“For the past six months decisions have been made that have put our health system back.
“If Sinn Fein is going to prevent an Executive from functioning, then there is no choice but for Westminster to intervene. We need to move to direct rule.”
Meanwhile, TUV leader Jim Allister also called for the Secretary of State to appoint direct rule ministers and legislate for a budget.
“Why postpone the inevitable,” he asked.
“Health cuts – despite a promised pot of money – and unaccountable drift under a Civil Service ‘cabinet’, bring into sharp focus that there is no room for game playing by the Secretary of State.
“It is disreputable and wrong to either use governmental paralysis as a lever to try and re-establish failed institutions or to put embarrassment over admitting failure of the rigged devolution project before bringing government to Northern Ireland.”
Alliance MLA David Ford said the cuts to the health service would have a “brutal impact” on people.
He added: “This is coming as a direct result of the failure of previous health ministers, from both the DUP and Sinn Fein, to tackle difficult issues and promote the necessary reforms.”
Claire Sugden MLA added: “These cuts cannot go ahead and we need an Assembly in place to ensure they don’t.”
A UK Government spokesperson said Mr Brokenshire had been “consistent” in calling for the parties to continue negotiations aimed at restoring devolution.
In a statement, the Northern Ireland Office added: “The Secretary of State has been clear that his focus is ensuring a power-sharing Executive is restored in NI. He has been consistent in his call for the parties to resume political talks.
“The UK Government has remained in contact with the parties over the summer with the aim of restoring devolution. We want to see the financial support for Northern Ireland decided upon and spent by a devolved government to benefit the whole community.”