One aspect of the present budgetary crisis which often gets overlooked is the impact it has on government forward planning.
Our stalled budget has led to a crippling lack of decisions across departments when what is needed is planned investment in restructuring how services are delivered to the public.
Nowhere is this more important than with our GPs, the anchor of primary care in the Health service.
Some 34 per cent of GPs will retire in the next five years and a further 28 per cent are thinking of going part-time. Twenty per cent of new GPs plan to move abroad within five years. Only 33 of the 65 GPs due to complete their training in Northern Ireland last year, actually did so. Across Northern Ireland there is a shortage of 234 family doctors.
Over the past 10 years, the number of patients registered with GPs has risen by 125,000 from 1.8 million in 2004 to 1.92 million in 2014 while the number of GP surgeries in Northern Ireland has dropped from 366 to 351.
Pressures on GPs are immense. Work formerly carried out elsewhere is being dumped on GPs with no money, or inadequate amounts of money, transferred to do the work. They are put under pressure on how long they can spend with each patient but the truth is they are treating more older people with time consuming complex health problems.
Our GPs’ work related stress means they are more likely to end up as patients themselves.
Ukip wants to start at the GP training stage by abolishing all student fees for medical students provided they promise to work and pay taxes in this country for five years.
We must train our own young people for jobs rather than relying on importing doctors and other professionals from abroad. Given the size of youth unemployment, Ukip asks why can we not train our own young people for jobs which we know will exist in this country?
Government’s record on employment planning is abysmal. Also by restricting immigration, Ukip will tackle the pressure of immigrants on doctors’ surgeries. The 80,000 plus new arrivals into Northern Ireland could well be ‘the straw that breaks the camel’s back’ as far as pressure on GPs is concerned.
• David McNarry is a Ukip MLA