Doctor warns of 'severe consequences' for health reform over Stormont budget impasse

Video report by Paul Reilly

A leading doctor has warned Stormont's inability to set a three-year budget will have "severe consequences" for the health service.

The draft budget diverted hug sums of money to the health service in order to allow for major reforms.

Royal college of General Practitioners Chair Dr Lawrence Dorman described the failure as "deeply disappointing and frustrating" and warned, "after 10 years of single year budgets, this multi-year settlement was a vital opportunity and if lost, will have severe consequences.”

Dr Dorman said single year budgets meant the health service "had to be reactive and unable to meet the needs of patients".

"For years we have known that multi-year budgets are needed in Northern Ireland to enable us to plan and deliver health services more effectively."

Head of the Federation of Small Businesses NI Roger Pollen said the lack of a draft budget was "deeply regrettable", however, he was pleased by the announcement of rates freezes and continuing support for businesses, describing them as, "a welcome bit of certainty in an otherwise turbulent period of government from Stormont.”

The Stormont parties each had competing views on the responsibility for failings in the budget. The UUP MLA Alan Chambers accused the DUP of having, "endangered delivering the investment and certainty that our health service so desperately needs" by collapsing the Executive.

The SDLP's Matthew O'Toole had similar concerns, describing it as, " a shameful day for politics in the north but it’s particularly shameful for the DUP".

"What we are witnessing right now is unsustainable and unmanaged collapses in service provision. This is the single most important issue for the SDLP and it must be a priority for every political representative in the Assembly,” he said.

The Green Party leader Claire Bailey called on all parties, "to focus on securing long-term financial stability for our public services, and on alleviating poverty in Northern Ireland.”

The DUP's Peter Weir by contrast stated that the draft budget was, "a warning about the direction in which Sinn Fein would take Northern Ireland".

"Devoid of any substance, we have instead been presented with increasingly desperate spinning from Conor Murphy," he said.

"His belief that he could simply by-pass Executive approval was testament to Sinn Fein's arrogance and disregard for any proper process."