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T5. Mr Flanagan asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel whether she accepts the comments made by her predecessor, Simon Hamilton, who talked about poor budget management in the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and to outline any changes that have been made in conjunction with that Department to deal with that issue. (AQT 2995/11-16)
I think that we all accept that not all the growing pressures in the Department of Health relate to its budget. I am sure that he is aware of the demographic pressures. I was struck by the fact that NISRA, in some of its recently published statistics, was able to tell me that, by 2020, the population will grow to 1·9 million, but 50% of that growth will be older people. That brings with it particular pressures for the Department of Health, and we have to deal with that. How do we deal with it? I believe that we deal with it by doing things differently. I hope that, on the other side of the talks, we can have conversations about doing things differently. If you keep doing things in the same way, you get the same results. Therefore, we have to innovate in the health sector, and I know that the Minister of Health is very committed to that.
Go raibh maith agat. The Minister did not really answer the question on that occasion. Does she now accept that her party has no credibility in the community, given the way its Ministers are coming in and out of office like 'Lanigan's Ball' and not dealing with scandalous waiting lists or other pertinent issues? Without a full-time Minister of Health in office, how will her party deal with the crisis in the health service?
I will certainly not take lessons on credibility from the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone who posed the question, which, coming from him in particular, is almost laughable. For almost two years, the party opposite has engaged in burying its head in the sand in relation to welfare reform. Yet we all know, in the House and outside it, what the situation is. Do not be under any illusion or try to distract from the fact that, because you have not grasped the reality of the budgetary situation here in Northern Ireland, we are losing £10 million from the Budget every single month — £10 million that could do quite a lot in the health service. I think that it would pay for over 2,000 hip replacements or even more knee replacements, so I am not taking lectures from the Member on credibility, and certainly not on financial management.
Order, please. Up to now, Members have been extremely good and have not been shouting from sedentary positions. One Member has just joined us and is doing it. I ask him not to do it again.