Northern Ireland

NI health service gets £30m boost in funding reallocation

The Northern Ireland health service is to receive an extra £30m to help deal with winter pressures.

In January, a major incident was declared at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital due to a large backlog of patients at the A&E department.

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton made the announcement as part of a reallocation of funds known as a monitoring round.

He said the money would help "alleviate significant front line pressures".

However, he said he has made it clear to the health minister that he expects the Department of Health to contain costs.

Health Minister Edwin Poots has welcomed the boost in funding and said it would play a "critical role".

"This money will be used to alleviate significant pressures by directly helping patients, elderly people and children receive the treatment, care packages and services they require more efficiently," he said.

"The funding will be focussed on front line services and will directly benefit a large number of patients and other service users."

The next largest reallocation of £18m will go to road maintenance projects.

The finance minister has also had to set aside £15m for potential "fines" to the Treasury over the executive's delay in implementing welfare reforms which have been introduced elsewhere in the UK.

The Treasury has not yet demanded the money back but could do so at short notice.

'Regeneration benefits'

A large slice of the money which has been reallocated has come from the Department for Social Development (DSD).

It has handed back almost £17m of Housing Executive funds which remain unspent due to problems with maintenance contracts.

A further £8m handed back by DSD relates to the recovery of a grant from the Helm housing association.

Helm received the public funds in 2007 to part-finance its £9.7m purchase of land in Belfast.

Its proposal was for 200 homes on the site at Great George's Street but nothing was ever built.

Mr Hamilton also announced that the executive is making a £35m loan to the University of Ulster to help with its development of a new campus in Belfast.

The loan, to be repaid over 16 years, will be interest free but the university will give the executive £7m from its accumulated reserves.

Mr Hamilton said: "This funding demonstrates the executive's commitment to the University of Ulster scheme that hopes to receive significant financing from the European Investment Bank.

"The University of Ulster relocation will bring huge regeneration benefits to that area of Belfast."

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