Northern Ireland

Poots says he does not intend to resign over health cuts

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Media captionThe Ulster Unionists and SDLP are demanding that politicians are called back early from their holidays because of the threat of health service budget cuts.

The health minister has said decisions on any cuts to the health budget will have to be taken by the executive.

Edwin Poots said he would present a paper on Thursday outlining the cuts required to keep health department spending within budget restraints.

"Many of these decisions are so controversial that no single minister could make it," he said.

Asked if he would resign if he did not get the funding, the minister replied, "It's not my intention to fail."

Mr Poots told Radio Ulster's Evening Extra programme it was up to the executive to "put their hands up" if they wanted to make the cuts.

"I, as a single minister, will not be taking that responsibility on," he said.

The minister previously blamed Sinn Féin for his department's budget shortfall due to its refusal to agree a deal on welfare reform

Earlier, UUP leader Mike Nesbitt called for an immediate recall of the executive to discuss health service funding.

"I am well aware that this is a proper crisis that needs to be met with a proper political response," he said.

The SDLP's health spokesperson, Fearghal McKinney called for an emergency meeting of the assembly's health committee.

He said the committee "must act to examine all of the facts and uncover the truth of the current situation".

Mr Poots recently said he would not implement cuts that would "destroy our health service".

Education Minister John O'Dowd said Sinn Féin had backed additional money for health and that Mr Poots' management of the health budget had been criticised by the DUP Finance Minister Simon Hamilton.

The next meeting of the executive is not due for a fortnight.

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