McGimpsey warning over health budget

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The NI health minister has repeated his warnings about the possibility of radical changes to the health service, including job losses, if his budget is not protected.

The finance department is hoping that a draft budget can be agreed for presentation to the Assembly by Tuesday of next week.

Health accounts for half of the Northern Ireland Executive's budget.

On Tuesday, Michael McGimpsey sounded another warning note about the impact of any cuts.

According to BBCNI Political Editor Mark Devenport, Mr McGimpsey talked of radical changes.

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The minister highlighted the need to spend money on replacing hospital buildings, like the Ulster Hospital's old ward block which he said was on the point of failure.

DUP sources suggest 70-80% of Mr McGimpsey's budget - the element which covers health but not social services - could be protected or, in the jargon, ring fenced.

But the minister insists that is not good enough.

Meanwhile, finance department sources are hopeful a draft budget can be agreed by next Tuesday with a final budget following in mid February.

It is thought Justice Minister David Ford's budget will be ring fenced.

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