Page last updated at 17:52 GMT, Monday, 16 January 2012

Review of Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland cont.

A major review of health and social care was the "most important document for health provision in a generation", an MLA said on 16 January 2012.

The deputy chair of the health committee, Jim Wells said, "people have not realised just how significant this document is".

The review of the health service in Northern Ireland was brought before the assembly by Health Minister Edwin Poots in December.

It was carried out by a team under Health and Social Care Board chief executive John Compton who said the changes were planned to take place over the next five years.

The report says the number of acute hospitals will probably have to fall from 10 to five.

Acute hospitals are those providing A&E services and emergency surgery.

Speaking during a take note debate, Jim Allister of the TUV and independent member David McClarty expressed concerns about how the proposals would affect their own constituencies of North Antrim and East Londonderry.

The SDLP's Margaret Ritchie said the review would be measured against outworkings and whether rural communities were properly catered for.

Anna Lo said the Alliance Party supported proposals for better integration of the community and voluntary sector as, "too many people use A&E as an alternative to using their GP".

However, she said her party, "draws a line for charging for services".

The UUP's Sandra Overend said she did not, "support a whole slash and burn approach to services and I therefore question several parts of this report".

Responding, Health Minister Edwin Poots said £70m funding would be required over the next three years. He said health service provision was "in a difficult period" which needed responded to within financial constraints.

The motion was passed unanimously.

The first part of the debate can be viewed here .

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