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Northern Ireland to receive 5.4% health spending increase

The Northern Ireland Office increased health spending by 5.4% as part of a £50m budget increase to health and education in its budget announcement on Monday.

James Brokenshire, who is the Northern Ireland secretary in the Westminster Government, announced the increase due to the lack of an executive in Northern Ireland following on from the Conservative Party’s agreement with the DUP.

He said that the health service was ‘in significant need of transformation’, adding ’this Government will commit to making available the £50m for addressing immediate health and education pressures in the Agreement in this financial year’.

BMA Northern Ireland chair Dr John Woods welcomed the investment but said it is ‘still not enough to address the workforce and workload crisis we have in both primary and secondary care’.

He added: ‘We simply do not have enough GPs or hospital doctors to meet the needs of the growing population of Northern Ireland. We need meaningful long term workforce planning and service transformation as outlined in the Bengoa report as a so that we have service and a workforce that is fit for the future.’

Unison regional secretary Patricia McKeown said that the budget allocation is to be interpreted as a cut.

‘Health inflation is running at 6%. The budget allocation is only a 5.4% increase. This is not sufficient to maintain current services, let alone develop them. We saw two months ago what kind of crisis a proposed £70m cut created,’ she said.

As Pulse recently reported, GPs in Northern Ireland feared a budget imposition, because the absence of a direct rule in the country would have meant that no one would be able to solve the severe problems facing the NHS.

The BMA’s GP Committee is currently in the process of collecting resignations from GPs in an attempt to take general practice outside of the NHS, with practices directly charging patients.