The public and health workers in Northern Ireland have been let down by politics, the outgoing Stormont health minister has said.
Robin Swann will leave his post at midnight after a last-ditch effort to resurrect powersharing government failed.
Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris is expected to call a fresh Assembly election on Friday.
Mr Swann expressed his frustration that he will leave his post with no confirmed budget and a projected £450 million overspend.
📝 Health Minister Robin Swann marked his final day in office by sending a personal tribute to health service staff.
— Department of Health (@healthdpt) October 27, 2022
“I warned a month ago that the current stalemate amounted to the sabotage of our current health service,” he told reporters at the Department of Health in Belfast.
“I’m angry that politics has got in the way of making the progress that our patients require because it’s hard to find the words to how disgusted, how frustrated and how angry I am today, having spent some time this morning with health workers in the Causeway Hospital, having spent time as minister with health workers across health and social care.
“Be in no doubt, more patients are going to come to harm as a result of the political position that we will find ourselves in from midnight tonight.
“I believe that an election won’t help anyone, it will simply get in the way of the work that needs doing.”
He said the health service was in a fragile position and has now been left with no political leadership, no budget and no decision-making ability.
“I am truly fearful for what lies ahead,” he said.
“I believe, and it’s not easy to say this, I believe that the public has been let down by the politics here in Northern Ireland.
“I believe our health workers have been let down by the politics here in Northern Ireland, and I deeply regret that the lack of funding and the lack of an executive has prevented me and has prevented the department in getting a pay offer for our health and care staff over the line.
“It is likely that that full pay settlement will need further funding from Westminster as well, and without that I fear that industrial action across our health service is inevitable.
“I would also say to the current government, when you give tax cuts to the very rich and increase banker bonuses, I think you lose the right to lecture anyone about health workers on pay.”
Mr Swann said health workers and patients “deserve better”.
“My hope is that we get a joined up and grown-up politics, delivered from the next executive and assembly,” he said.
“We have to unite to put things right.
“One of the benefits that I’ve had being in this office was that party politics were truly removed from health during the pandemic, and I believe that that’s the way the health service should be supported, and should be sustained.”