New Stormont Health Minister Simon Hamilton

New Stormont Health Minister Simon Hamilton

SIMON Hamilton is the new Minister for Health.

The surprise move came after speculation at Stormont this morning had put colleague Jonathan Bell in the ministerial hot seat.

But DUP leader Peter Robionson announced his reshuffle at 4 pm today that the Strangford MLA Mr Hamilton would be moving from the Department of Finance and Personnel to the Department of Health.

He is being replaced in Finance by party colleague and Fermanagh MLA Arlene Forster.

Ms Foster is being replaced at her old post at Enterprise, Trade and Investment by Jonathan Bell who polled well in south Belfast last week, securing over 8,000 votes for the DUP.

Mr Hamilton takes over from Jim Wells MLA who quit last month after saying that child abuse was higher in families who had gay parents.

Mr Bell is replaced in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) by Michelle McIlveen.


New trade and jobs minister Jonathan Bell

New trade and jobs minister Jonathan Bell

After his appointment, Mr Hamilton said: “The health and social care sector in Northern Ireland is something we should all be very proud of and it is a privilege for me to hold the position of minister.

“I can assure the public that despite the budget and resource challenges I face, I will continue to strive for excellence in the care we provide.

“There will be tough decisions ahead, but I will not shy away from doing what’s right.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said the minister would be expected to issue new abortion guidelines “as a matter of urgency”.

“The former health minister had indicated that he intended to bring guidelines for health professionals on termination of pregnancy to the executive within weeks,” the spokesman said.

“We would expect that Minister Hamilton will consider this issue as a matter of urgency.”

Among the issues he faces are abortion legislation and pending court action over maintaining a ban on blood donation from gay men.

Mr Hamilton’s brief will also include prescription charges to pay for specialist drugs, potential hospital closures and negotiating with unions.

He said: “I would like to pay tribute to all staff in the health and social care sector, as well as staff from the ambulance and fire service.

“I know that they feel the stresses and strains of their work and I, along with the public, am grateful for their dedication and commitment.”

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