A "VERY successful" cross-border healthcare scheme allowing people on waiting lists in the north to access treatment in the Republic is to be extended.
Stormont health minister Robin Swann said the Republic of Ireland Reimbursement Scheme will receive an extra £5 million from his department to extend it beyond the previous deadline of June 30.
The scheme was established to replace the European Union's Cross-Border Health Directive - which ended last June - following Brexit, and reimburses those who travel to access healthcare in the Republic with the equivalent sum of what it would cost in the north.
Mr Swann has advised that new applications for the scheme, which was initially planned to run for 12 months, are now open and said they will be processed in "chronological order".
The scheme's extension will end once the extra £5m has been allocated.
The minister said there had been "significant" patient interest, adding of the new Department of Health financial support: "This is funding that I do not currently have in my department’s baseline, so it is a decision that I have taken at risk.
"However, given the obvious benefits of the scheme, it was one I felt was necessary as essential HSC capacity continues to become increasingly available over the coming weeks and months."
Eligible patients must first be diagnosed as having a clinical need for treatment available in the north, then are required to find a private provider across the border that offers the care they require and apply to the scheme.