DHSSPS: Budget (AQO)

DHSSPS: Budget (AQO) by Brian Wilson Green Party MLANorthern Ireland Assembly, Monday 12 October 2010

I ask the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety how the increase in the health budget over the last three years compares with that in England. (AQO 284/11)

Michael McGimpsey (UUP)

Looking at my revenue budget, I see that, over the past three years, my Department got less than 1% above inflation per annum, compared with 3·4% in England. That is equivalent to £640 million over the CSR period or £300 million per annum. According to Treasury public expenditure statistical analyses (PESA) data, the English capital budget grew by 43% over three years to 2009-2010, while growth inNorthern Ireland was only 12%. Scotland and Wales grew by 36%. Those figures should not surprise anyone in the Assembly: despite my best effort, that was what was voted for.

If historic underfunding is not tackled now, the gap between what is available here and in the rest of the UKcan only widen, leaving Northern Ireland with a second-rate service. No Health Minister could accept that, and I have argued and will continue to argue for additional funding from the Executive.

Brian Wilson (Green)

I thank the Minister for his response. The response highlights a concern that I initially raised in my speech on the Budget. Will the Minister agree that that previous underfunding supports the case for ring-fencing the Department’s budget for the next year?

Michael McGimpsey (UUP)

I completely agree with Mr Wilson. We have historic underfunding. We also have cost pressures looking forward. Let us remember that the CSR period is for four years and project where we will be four years from now, particularly with our growing elderly population. The population is also growing due to our high birth rate. So, demand is rising all the time, and it is not a demand that we can walk away from.

We have a social contract with the people here to provide health and social care free at the point of delivery, and we have to have the support to do that. Activity is dependent on the revenue provided to fund it. Without that funding, that activity will fall, because we have a monopoly on health provision as far as the state is concerned. There is nowhere else to go, and that means pain and distress for our population, and a worse situation.

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