Northern Ireland will receive £53m as its share of the £2bn extra cash for the NHS - but how it will be allocated remains unknown.

Health and social services minister George Howarth 'w ill not decide how the money is to be distributed until he meets with the health boards, the professions and the unions', according to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

Although the money could be divided up between health boards to spend as they see fit, it seems likely that the£53m will be allocated according to the priorities identified for the rest of the UK by prime minister Tony Blair.

Western Health and Social Services board chief executive Tom Frawley said it needed to 'address a range of unfunded issues such as pay awards above the rate of inflation and costs associated with the new millennium'.

United Hospitals Health and Social Services trust finance director Clark Bailie said: 'I would hope or expect enough to cope with delayed discharges, and for a reduction in waiting lists, and to increase bed capacity to cope with emergencies.'

£99m found for Wales in the Budget - plus£11m from savings on other programmes.

Welsh health minister Jane Hutt was announcing details of the allocation as HSJ went to press.

The Welsh Assembly will debate the proposals and put forward firm plans by Easter.