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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Rebecca Black

Senior doctor calling for Stormont return amid warning of ‘huge stress’ on staff

A senior doctor will tell colleagues the Stormont Assembly must return as soon as possible as the health service comes under increasing pressure.

Devolved government in Northern Ireland has been in flux for more than a year amid DUP protest action around post-Brexit arrangements.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is pressing the UK Government for action before his party will return to the Assembly.

In the absence of local ministers, Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris is setting the 2023-24 budget while senior civil servants are running the Stormont departments with limited decision-making powers.

Dr Alan Stout believes devolved government must return to address significant issues facing doctors and patients.

Addressing the British Medical Association’s (BMA) annual representative meeting in Liverpool on Tuesday, Dr Stout will say ministers are needed to take decisions.

The BMA NI council deputy chair will outline a “long list” of issues facing the health service in Northern Ireland.

He will say that without a functioning government for the last year the health service is under more pressure than it has ever been with huge emergency department waits, an inability to discharge patients once they are in hospital and waiting lists that now stretch many years.

It is utterly disgraceful
— Dr Alan Stout

“The stress on our workforce is huge, and not only are we being held responsible on the front line, but also often accountable as well in the absence of any politicians. It is utterly disgraceful,” he will say.

“To add to this, we have a close neighbour, a European neighbour, that is pushing very hard on transformed healthcare and is targeting significant increases in their doctor numbers with very much better terms and conditions than we have.

“Without a plan to retain doctors working in Northern Ireland there is a risk right now, and we already see it in many of our border services, but also a risk for the foreseeable future that we will lose more and more doctors to our nearest neighbour.”

Dr Stout said the absence of the Stormont Executive head led to a “catastrophic budget threatening all services in Northern Ireland”.

“Every department is facing cuts of between 5 and 10%, every branch of practice will be affected,” he said.

Just like their colleagues across the rest of the UK, doctors in Northern Ireland need and deserve a pay rise this year
— Dr Alan Stout

“Alarmingly we have been told there is no money available for any pay award for any member of healthcare staff this year.

“This at the time of sky-high inflation and huge cost of living pressures.

“This is devastating for our doctors. Members across Northern Ireland are pressing us to take more radical action. At our recent junior doctor events we got the message loud and clear that any incoming government has to fix pay, a view that is shared across the profession.

“We have written to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and our local party leaders to underscore this; just like their colleagues across the rest of the UK, doctors in Northern Ireland need and deserve a pay rise this year.”

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