Northern Ireland

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Doctors leader expresses concern over morale in the profession

BMA Northern Ireland (British Medical Association) Chair Dr John D Woods has warned that low morale and increasing pressure could lead to doctors leaving Northern Ireland.

Speaking today [Wednesday 27 June] at the BMA annual conference taking place in Brighton this week, Dr Woods said that over seventy percent of consultants in Northern Ireland said their moral was low or worse, and four of out five doctors here felt they didn’t have enough time for ongoing learning and development.

He said that the current situation in healthcare needed to change prevent doctors seeking better working conditions elsewhere.

“This year the BMA asked doctors in Northern Ireland about their working lives and the findings have been revealing. Doctors feel under pressure in a way in which I don’t think they have felt ever before.

“Seventy percent of consultants that we surveyed said their morale was either low or worse. Over half felt control over how they work had decreased in the last five years. Forty-three percent of junior doctors said there were long-term gaps in their rotas meaning they were under pressure to work additional hours.

“All of our surveys indicate that our doctors have workloads that prevent them having a proper work life balance, and sixty percent of doctors think there are better opportunities to work as a doctor outside of Northern Ireland.”

Talking about how the situation could be improved, Dr Woods said that the Department of Health’s workforce strategy had the potential to improve doctor’s working lives as long as there was also long-term, recurrent funding, and added, “We need a local assembly and a local health minister; over 500 days without a government is too long.”

Doctor Woods also expressed concerns about the proposal in the O’Hara Inquiry report to stop foundation year doctors from working with children; “If we exclude junior doctors from the earliest stages of training in paediatrics, how will the specialty be maintained?

“Paediatrics is a specialty which in Northern Ireland already has significant difficulties in recruiting, with ten percent of our training posts for future consultants not being filled.

“We want to encourage, not discourage, doctors to specialise in the care of children. The key is appropriate supervision of doctors in training, not a ban on participation.”

The BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting debates policy and issues faced by the medical profession. 


For further information please contact:

BMA Northern Ireland, 16 Cromac Place, Cromac Wood, Ormeau Road, Belfast BT7 2JB
028 9026 9666   (switchboard)
028 9026 9672   (direct line)
074 0880 9519   (mobile / out of hours)
Email: [email protected] 
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