Fresh £48m will help tackle waiting list pressures

Hamilton''Health Minister Simon Hamilton and Finance Minister Arlene Foster are pictured with clinicians and nursing staff Shauna Lynan, Dr David Hendron, Angela Richards and Laura Humphries at the Intensive Care Unit at the Ulster Hospital
Hamilton''Health Minister Simon Hamilton and Finance Minister Arlene Foster are pictured with clinicians and nursing staff Shauna Lynan, Dr David Hendron, Angela Richards and Laura Humphries at the Intensive Care Unit at the Ulster Hospital

A £48 million funding boost for health services will help tackle mounting pressures on waiting lists in Northern Ireland’s hospitals.

Health Minister Simon Hamilton has outlined how he will use the money allocated to his department as part of the budget balancing undertaken in the wake of the political deal to stabilise the power-sharing administration. He said £40 million of the extra cash will be used to reduce waiting times.

In the “monitoring round” exercise, Finance Minister Arlene Foster distributed £47.6 million to Mr Hamilton’s department, £15 million to the Department of Education and a total of £24 million (capital and resource) to the Department of Regional Development, which has responsibility for road maintenance.

The Health Minister welcomed the additional funds.

“The agreement not only presents the opportunity for a fresh start for devolution. It has also created an opportunity to deal with the challenges facing our health and social care system because our public finances are back on a sound footing,” he said.

“This investment will allow up to 40,000 additional assessments and between 10,000 and 15,000 additional operations and treatments to be progressed. This will be across a wide range of specialities including orthopaedics, gastroenterology, neurology, and ENT.

“I understand the stress and strain that being on a waiting list will have meant for many people so I am pleased that very soon, many will start to receive notification of early appointments for hip and knee operations, spinal procedures and urology, for example.”

The remainder of the funding will be diverted to other pressure points in the health system, such as managing increased demand during the winter months and funding psychological therapies.

Education Minister John O’Dowd welcomed the additional £15 million to his budget.

“Around £5 million of the funding will be spent on necessary school maintenance, with another £5 million diverted to special education provision.

“Special education is a growing cost pressure within the education sector and therefore additional funding will assist special education needs for pupils in both mainstream and special schools.”