Speaking about the Northern Ireland Health Minister's plans for addressing the country's waiting lists' crisis, Dr Tom Black, BMA Northern Ireland Council chair, said: “We have long said that our waiting lists are dreadful, and are a source of stress for doctors in working in general practice and hospitals. They worry every day about patients already in the system and those waiting to get into the system. Doctors want to help people who are unwell but in our current system that is very difficult. The Minister is right to say we need to take a long term and strategic view of how our services are sited and run. We need to be able to see people quickly and efficiently, even if that means making changes to how services are delivered or the location of services. As long as staff are consulted about changes we are confident they will be willing to change how they work, and as the Minister said there have already been some successful initiatives running to deliver services differently and more efficiently.
“We would also support any efforts to fund the health system with a multi-year budget. The problems with our waiting lists have built up over many years and cannot be fully addressed with piecemeal budgets running from year to year. As the minister alluded to, when staff contracts are being reviewed there needs to funding for multiple years not just one year at a time. It is very difficult to recruit new staff with one year budgets, and one of the key factors in addressing waiting lists is having the right people to staff our hospitals.”