The Department of Finance has today written to the Department of Health authorising it to plan on the basis of an additional £40million being available in this financial year.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "This is hugely welcomed - the Health and Social Care, (HSC) system has faced significant budgetary pressures this year, which resulted in Trusts having to consult on savings plans of £70million, in order to meet the statutory obligation for the health and social care system to break-even.

"The additional £40million will help towards reducing the amount of savings needed.

"The financial issues faced this year will only grow in intensity as we move forward. The initial assessment of the financial position for 2018-19 and 2019-20 is that pressures of over some £430million and £670million respectively will need to be addressed just to maintain existing services. Demand for health services is growing steadily, as people live longer lives, chronic conditions increase, and new drugs and technologies are developed.

"The HSC continues to face serious financial pressures and the £40million offers important short-term respite. However, the best long-term way to counter these pressures is transformation.

"It is absolutely imperative to pursue the reform of the system to safeguard vital services and ensure it is fit for the future.

"As the Expert Panel, led by Professor Bengoa reported, reform must be addressed in a systematic and sustainable way which is in parallel with improving the quality of services. Transformation plans must continue for our health and social services so that resources are used in the most effective way in the best interests of patients."

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