BMA calls for investment in health service in Tom Black’s final speech as BMA NI Chair

by BMA Northern Ireland media team

Press release from BMA Northern Ireland.

Location: Northern Ireland
Published: Monday 24 June 2024
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BMA Northern Ireland’s outgoing council chair, Dr Tom Black, has used his final speech to plead for more funding and staff in the health service.

Speaking today [Monday, 24 June 2024] at BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting [ARM} taking place this year in Belfast, he said, “The NHS is more than just a health service for our community – it is part of the glue that holds society together, part of the moral fabric where we fulfil our responsibilities to the sick, the disadvantaged, the vulnerable and the elderly in our community.

“This cannot be done with an underfunded, understaffed, overloaded health service.

“Health has to be the number one priority for government spending in all four nations. The medical profession and this body the BMA have a responsibility to stand up for the service and its patients.”

In his speech he outlined the huge waiting time for patients in Northern Ireland, citing times among a list of 13 weeks for red flag dermatology, seven years for a hernia repair, three years for a first paediatric surgery appointment and 12 weeks for a red flag breast referral.

Dr Black continued, “Healthcare workers are suffering increasing stress and burnout. The moral injury doctors face because of these waiting times is high.

“Our recruitment and retention of doctors has been frustrated by the much better terms and conditions available elsewhere – particularly through Sláintecare in the Republic of Ireland, but also in the rest of UK and indeed the rest of the world.

“This perfect storm of lack of funding, understaffing and huge waiting lists will only be solved by radical thinking and actions – increasing funding and training places; recruitment on better terms and conditions; the unfortunate but seemingly inevitable use of the private sector for waiting list backlogs and better cross border working.

“This job; working as a doctor in the NHS is too difficult and too important to be badly paid.”

Dr Black will now step down as BMA Northern Ireland council chair following six years in the role[1]. Speaking about his time as chair he said, “When I took on the role, I had hoped it would be a time when we would see our health service transform into the one we all so badly want it to be, where people are seen quickly and treated fast. Instead we were plunged into a global pandemic and subsequent political chaos, meaning any change that has happened was either unplanned or piecemeal.

“The pandemic was a dark time for healthcare, but I am proud of the way doctors in primary and secondary care rose to the challenge and worked together to protect patients across Northern Ireland. We showed that when it comes to it, we can deliver the right healthcare in the right place at the right time, and when doctors are at the centre of decision making, it works.

“What I hope we see now is a period of political stability, when we can really address the issues there are in health here. I know some of those conversations won’t be easy, but we have to be realistic about what we can currently do, while at the same time trying to plan for a better NHS.”

Notes to editors

  • The maximum term that can be served under BMA Northern Ireland’s Articles and By-laws is six years.
    Dr Black will deliver his speech at 11.30am – please note the meeting may not run to time so it may be later.
  • More information on ARM can be found here:


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