It has never been a more difficult time to work as a doctor in Northern Ireland.
Thanks to years of government under-investment in the health and social care system, failure to act on successive transformation reports, a stop-start Assembly, poor workforce planning and the ongoing aftereffects of the pandemic response, junior doctors based here are delivering care under enormous pressure.
Add into this successive sub-inflationary pay awards and a cost-of-living crisis, morale is at an all-time low. It is driving up levels of burnout and forcing many young doctors out of the health service altogether.
It is in this backdrop that the Northern Ireland junior doctors committee is assessing the pay and contractual landscape here as we consider what next steps to take on behalf of junior doctors. As part of this, we will be coming to your place of work in March in a series of lunch time sessions to hear directly from you on what needs to change about your workplace, pay, recognition and working conditions. It will also be an opportunity to meet your NIJDC representatives.
So far lunchtime sessions have been confirmed at Antrim, RVH, Causeway, Mater and Ulster, with more locations to be added soon.
Across the UK junior doctors have made their feelings clear that the current situation of being overworked, under-valued and underpaid cannot go on. The BMA junior doctors committee is balloting junior members in England on whether to take industrial action with the Scottish junior doctors committee launching a similar ballot soon. Dialogue is ongoing between the Welsh JDC and the Welsh government.
NIJDC is watching our UK colleagues closely. Any next steps we take will be informed by what junior doctor sentiment is on the ground so it is vitally important that as many of you – BMA member or not – attend our lunchtime sessions and make your views known on what you would like us to do on your behalf. Lunch will also be provided.
Andrew Wilson is chair of the Northern Ireland junior doctors committee