BMA Northern Ireland response to health budget allocation

by BMA NI media team

Press release from BMA Northern Ireland

Location: Northern Ireland
Published: Thursday 25 April 2024
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Responding to today’s Budget announcement that £7.76billion will be allocated to health, Dr Tom Black, BMA Northern Ireland Council chair, said: “The amount allocated to health is simply not enough to sustain a health service that is struggling to function effectively with a huge workload and workforce crisis, never mind address the underlaying causes of this crisis in any realistic, long-term way.

“Our health service simply cannot function without its staff who have borne years of underinvestment and face the impact of worst waiting lists in the UK every day. There is a stark disparity between their pay and conditions and that of colleagues elsewhere in the UK and in the Republic of Ireland. This - along with years of below inflation or non-existent pay uplifts, the latest of which for the 2023/24 financial year has been delayed until June at the earliest – further demonstrates that their hard work in holding the health system together is simply not valued. Therefore, it is no surprise that growing numbers of doctors are now opting to leave Northern Ireland to work in countries where they do feel valued.

“Such is the current level of workforce discontent in around the lack of government funding and action on pay and workloads that they have been forced to act themselves. This year our junior doctor members voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action for pay restoration. Today our consultant committee announced they too plan to ballot members for industrial action over pay, and a recent indicative ballot of Northern Ireland SAS* members returned a yes vote in favour of moving towards the same. In primary care, we continue to see GPs left with no choice but to hand back contracts due to the mismatch between funding and workload demands.

“If our government wants the health service to survive and if they are serious about addressing waiting lists as well as transforming our health service into one that is fit for the future health needs of the population, then it needs to act urgently to secure further funding so it can properly invest in both staff pay to stem the workforce exodus, and to safeguard funding for multi-year budgets to ensure transformation actually happens. The Northern Ireland Executive also now needs to be to be absolutely honest with the public about what health service they can expect as a result of this budget as it is clear it will be impossible to match any expectation.”

Notes to editors

*specialist, staff grade, associate specialist and specialty doctors.

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