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Statement from the Health Minister on swine flu funding

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey today clarified Health and Social Care’s contribution to the cost of swine flu funding.

Following yesterday’s announcement by the Executive that other Departments were to contribute to the total costs of funding the pandemic, the Minister said: “The swine flu pandemic remains a major public health threat across the world. My Department’s response, which we have been planning for a number of years, has been to ensure we have the measures in place to protect the people of Northern Ireland and reduce the potential impact of this virus. This costs money – some £64million.

“I am pleased that agreement has now been reached and I welcome the contribution from other Departments and for the support from my Ministerial colleagues on this matter.

“Let’s however be clear, my Department, rather than be ‘exempt’ from such contributions as has been reported today, has actually contributed £32million – half of the total bill.”

As part of the budget settlement, the Minister said that the Executive had agreed that his Department would receive the first £20million of any available monies to fund much needed additional essential services to the public.

He continued: “In addition to the £32million I have contributed to swine flu costs, I have had to find a further £10million from my capital budget to protect existing services.

“So while I welcome the fact that the remaining £10million has been agreed as an Executive priority for my Department, it is vital that the remaining monies are made available to sustain services. This includes money for cancer services, children’s services and cutting waiting lists.

“My Department highlighted the need to agree budgets for swine flu and these other pressures in the June monitoring round. I am grateful to Health and Social Care staff for their tireless efforts to meet increasing pressures whilst the available budget was under debate.

“I will now move quickly to agree the plans of the HSC to help them break even and to meet the all important targets for improvements in patient services.

“My Department’s total contributions represent a significant amount of money that I could have used on other services.”

Turning to the challenges still facing the service, the Minister said: “Demand for Health and Social Care services continues to rise. Every year more and more people are using our services, more operations are carried out and more people require care in their own homes.

“I am on record as stating that by 2011, the funding gap for health in Northern Ireland will have risen to £600million compared to England. In addition, we have to meet some £700million of efficiency savings over the same period. There are also decisions to be made to bridge the funding gap for next year.

“It is vital that health is recognised as key priority and is not expected to bear the brunt of further reductions simply because it has a large budget. Staff can do no more and further reductions will only mean cuts to frontline services. I am sure everyone will agree that this must not happen.”

Notes to Editors:

1.Press enquiries to the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 90520575. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned.