When the Deputy refers to counterparts I assume he is referring to counterparts in Northern Ireland. There is currently no Health Minister in Northern Ireland as the Executive is not in place. However, health co-operation between North and South is very important and there is co-operation on a range of matters between the two jurisdictions. As a result of this co-operation there is ongoing communication between officials in my Department and their counterparts in Northern Ireland and indeed between the relevant agencies.
Co-operation makes sense. The challenges facing health and social care providers, planners, and policy makers on both parts of the island of Ireland are similar. There is no doubt that patient benefits will accrue from pooling expertise, resources and exchanging good practice. I am committed to strengthening and growing North South health cooperation where it is mutually beneficial.