Doctors and nurses share worry for health reform

Reform of the health service will suffer without “strategic decisions” being made by elected politicians, a doctors’ organisation has warned.

By Niall Deeney
Friday, 4th February 2022, 3:26 pm
Updated Friday, 4th February 2022, 3:50 pm

This comes after the Health Minister Robin Swann had said, following the DUP First Minister’s decision to withdraw from the Northern Ireland Executive, that while he would remain in post “the task of rebuilding our health service has been made all the more difficult”.

The British Medical Association (BMA) in Northern Ireland, which represents the views of doctors and junior doctors, has warned that without a functioning Executive the “big decisions” required to rebuild services and tackle waiting lists could be left unmade.

Speaking to the News Letter, the chair of the BMA’s Northern Ireland committee Dr Tom Black, said: “When we don’t have politicians in place to make decisions, it tends to be the bigger decisions, the strategic decisions, that aren’t made. Those are the sort of decisions we need right at the moment because we’re coming out of a pandemic, because we’ve got such huge waiting lists, because the transformation of the health service has to a large extent been stalled.

Dr Tom Black

“Now is the time to get stuck in and get the hard work done but it’s going to be made more difficult if we don’t have politicians in place.”

Dr Black continued : “One thing that stands out to the medical communinty and to the BMA is the three-year funding plans that had been brought through, and the ability to plan ahead for recruiting more workers be that doctors and nurses or other healthcare workers, being able to plan ahead for the mental health strategy, the cancer strategy and dealing with the waiting lists.”

Nurses have also expressed concern.

The Royal College of Nursing’s Northern Ireland director Rita Devlin said: “Nursing staff in Northern Ireland will be appalled at the implications of this decision. It is unacceptable, in the middle of a global pandemic and with our health and social care system already beyond the point of collapse, that any action could be taken that will prevent decisions being taken that will protect the health and wellbeing of the people of Northern Ireland.”

She added: “There is an urgent need, for example, to promote the recruitment and retention of nursing staff, to develop safe staffing legislation, and to rebuild health and social care services, amongst many other priorities.

“We also need the three year budget for 2022-2025 to be approved.”