A major review of health and social care put forward a "compelling case for change", the health minister told the assembly, on 16 January 2012.
Edwin Poots opened the take note debate on the review and said the 99 proposals contained in the 'Transforming Your Care' report represented "radical change" to how services were delivered.
He said that by 2016, acute hospitals would be "reconfigured to a more appropriate scale".
Acute hospitals are those providing accident and emergency services and emergency surgery.
When the health minister presented the review to MLAs in December, he said the number of acute hospitals would probably have to fall from 10 to five.
Health committee chair Michelle Gildernew said there were concerns about a possible "time lag" between the move of hospital services to primary care and that she did "not necessarily believe all 99 recommendations should be implemented".
Mr Poots said Northern Ireland had the fastest growing population in the UK and changes were necessary in order to deal with the needs of a larger elderly population.
"The review was not about cross-cutting, but about the quality and safety of patient care," he said.
The second part of the debate can be viewed