Ulster Unionist Party Health spokesperson Roy Beggs has accused Edwin Poots and the DUP of using threats on the health of every person in Northern Ireland in a desperate and scandalous attempt to conceal their own failings over welfare reform.
The East Antrim MLA said;
“It is now almost unanimously accepted that our health service is underfunded. That’s not just as a direct consequence of any new pressures or developments, but rather can be clearly traced back to 2011 when the then Finance Minister decided on a totally inadequate four year health budget.
“As has been noted by many in recent weeks the warnings made by my colleague Michael McGimpsey, the then Health Minister, have now unfortunately started to come to fruition. It’s hugely frustrating that it is has taken Edwin Poots up to now, three years after the budget settlement, to acknowledge the huge danger our health service is in.
“By claiming waiting times for elective services will increase ‘very radically’ is one thing but to actually now state that the budgetary situation has deteriorated to such an extent that ‘the safety and quality of services provided to patients and clients may be compromised’ is outrageous. It should never have been allowed to get to this stage and if only the DUP had stopped using the budget as a political football then this could have been avoided.
“It is welcome, albeit belatedly, that the Minister has eventually acknowledged that there is a problem. He would have the support of the Ulster Unionist Party in seeking additional emergency funds from the Executive. Unfortunately, however, instead of using this situation to build political consensus on the health budget he has very foolishly and very dishonourably attempted to connect the issue with welfare reform. The DUP are blatantly in the midst of some form of propaganda campaign at present given the fact the Simon Hamilton, Nelson McCausland and now Edwin Poots have all been making remarkably similar comments over recent days.
“If the block grant is cut by £100m this year, DFP have indicated this would result in a reduction of £68m from the health service budget. The inability to take a decision on welfare reform will represent the single biggest failure of the Assembly to date under the DUP and SF. The Social Development Minister should have brought Northern Ireland specific welfare reforms last year rather than those requested by DWP and this could have addressed the problem. The healthcare of patients shouldn’t have to pay the price for this failure in political leadership from the DUP and Sinn Fein.”