Workforce and workforce planning central in reforming the health service in the next mandate

by BMA Northern Ireland media office

Press release from BMA Northern Ireland 

Location: Northern Ireland
Last reviewed: 15 March 2022

Supporting the workforce and workforce planning will be central in reforming the health service over the next mandate. They are two of the priorities laid out in the BMA Northern Ireland manifesto that has been published in advance of the Assembly elections in May.

Speaking about the priorities, Dr Tom Black, BMA NI Council chair said, “As we come out of the toughest two years our health service has seen, we now need to turn our attention to really transforming our health service into one that meets the needs of the population.

“The cornerstone of the NHS is the people who work in it.  Central to our manifesto is support for the medical workforce. We need to value our doctors and provide a safe and supportive environment for them to work in. Many of them have told us their mental health has got worse during the pandemic, so we want to see support for their physical and mental health introduced.

“Doctors must also be paid fairly for what they do. We are still waiting for this year’s pay uplift months after it was announced. This has led doctors to feeling even less valued for what they do.

“We also urgently need reforms to the pension scheme to stop doctors being forced to retire early. We genuinely risk losing skilled medics from the NHS at a time when we cannot afford to lose a single member of staff.

“The Department of Health also need to engage in meaningful workforce planning. We need the right number of doctors in GP practices, in hospitals and in the community to meet the increasingly complex health needs of the population. Attempts to do this so far have been piecemeal and ineffective.

“In relation to general practice we need an urgent increase in GP training numbers and a commitment to annually review these numbers to make sure they reflect need. We also want funding for multi-disciplinary teams to be rolled out across all Northern Ireland, funding to improve premises and a state backed indemnity reimbursement scheme.

“We also want to see a permanent commitment to fund the second medical school at Magee and a review into the fees and costs associated with studying medicine and junior doctor training. Training to become a doctor both at the degree stage and as they build their career is expensive and we do not wany anyone to be deterred from becoming a doctor because of the cost. 

“In terms of patient safety, we want to see an end to the current blame culture. There needs to be an open, learning culture that includes safe staffing legislation. We have also been clear that we do not want to see an individual duty of candour in Northern Ireland.

“Finally, we need to address some of the huge health inequalities in Northern Ireland. We need to move towards a population health model for planning services and this needs to be properly resourced. We also want health impact assessments to be part of the normal process for all new legislation, the introduction of minimum unit pricing legislation, properly resourced and sustainable mental health services for the population and climate change to be addressed to prevent further health inequalities.

“This mandate has been extremely challenging for health, dealing with a pandemic while trying to maintain other services has stretched our service close to breaking point. However, now is the time to really address the long-term issues in our health service and make the changes that are needed to recruit and retain staff, improve services including general practice and address the long-standing health inequalities faced by our patients.”

Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

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