UUP MLA wants full ringfencing for health department

Image caption, The Ulster Unionists want the budget for the department of health completely protected

An Ulster Unionist MLA has said that his party will be pressing for full protection of health and social care in the upcoming executive budget.

John McCallister was responding to a pledge from the finance minister to protect healthcare from cuts.

However, Sammy Wilson warned that social care could face reductions.

Mr McCallister said demand for social services was "soaring" and that health and social care in NI was underfunded by £600m compared to England.

The party health spokesperson added: "We believe this disparity must be rectified as part of the budget discussions especially as we have the fastest growing population among the young and old anywhere in the UK."

On Wednesday, Mr Wilson said that he would give protection to the part of the health budget which is protected in the rest of the UK.

His pledge would mean that day-to-day budgets for the health service, including hospitals and GP surgeries, would be protected.

The finance department hopes to agree a draft budget by next Tuesday with a final budget delivered in February.

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