Page last updated at 17:25 GMT, Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Northern Ireland Assembly

The health minster has said there are people in Northern Ireland who are treating the health service as "some garage repair shop", on 14 December 2011.

Edwin Poots told the health committee he believed there was "enough money in the system to deal with people's needs, but not their abuse".

"Twenty-five per cent of people who call ambulances shouldn't and then we have the others who eat themselves, drink themselves or smoke themselves into bad health," he said.

Mr Poots was addressing the committee on the major health and social care review which he brought to the assembly on Tuesday.

Health committee chair Michelle Gildernew gave "a guarded welcome" to the report.

The DUP's Paula Bradley, who worked as a social work assistant for the Northern Health and Social Care Trust before entering politics, said proposed plans "will make such a difference" as the current health service was "not workable for the patient".

A number of committee members expressed concerns over a planned reduction in residential homes over the next five years.

John Compton, who carried out the report, said the need for residential care was declining.

Edwin Poots said there would be more packages offered within the home and therefore staff could be redeployed elsewhere. He said it was "more about reconfiguration than redundancy".

Mr Poots added that the temporary closure of the Belfast City Hospital's accident and emergency department in November had yielded positive results.

He said the number of 12-hour waits had dropped from a high of 89 in one month when all three emergency units were open to just three in November following the closure of the City unit.

He attributed this to better availability of registrars and other key staff.

Mr Compton also defended his plans to reduce the number of acute hospitals from 10 to between five or seven saying elsewhere in UK there would only be four acute hospitals covering a population the size of Northern Ireland.

During a discussion on consultant fees members expressed surprise that information detailing individual bonuses had not been provided to committee members by the department on request, despite similar information having been released to media sources through freedom of information requests earlier in the year.

The committee also took evidence on the health department's objectives for the forthcoming Programme for Government, and the January monitoring round.

Health committee membership

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