Working with the Northern Ireland Assembly

We work with the Northern Ireland Assembly and Department of Health to influence legislation and create change for doctors and health policy in Northern Ireland. See our current priorities and areas of work.

Location: Northern Ireland
Audience: All doctors Patients and public
Updated: Monday 7 September 2020
Podium article illustration

Representing our members’ interests and effecting change for doctors and patients is a key part of our work. We regularly meet with elected representatives and other stakeholders to highlight members’ issues, concerns and opinions.


Our priorities

Current priorities for the BMA in Northern Ireland include:

  • Brexit – we want to make sure that Northern Ireland’s unique position is considered.
  • workforce planning – we need the workforce plan implemented as a matter of urgency. Doctors’ terms and conditions must reflect the high level of training, skills and expertise they have. We need to make Northern Ireland an attractive place for doctors to work and live
  • transformation – properly funded transition arrangements for the transformation programme that will address pressures currently preventing the delivery of timely, high-quality and safe care
  • general practice – the service needs stabilising and there needs to be adequate long-term funding
  • public health – investment must be made to tackle health issues such as obesity and the misuse of alcohol, including a minimum unit price for alcohol. The funds generated through the sugar tax need to be ring-fenced for health initiatives
  • organ donation – we want to see a soft opt-out system introduced in Northern Ireland.


Healthcare transformation

‘Health and Wellbeing 2026: Delivering Together’ is an ambitious programme launched in October 2016 to transform the way health and social care is delivered in Northern Ireland. It outlined what changes needed to happen to improve health and social care services in Northern Ireland.

The programme was informed by the report of an expert panel led by Professor Rafael Bengoa. This report and those that preceded it came to the same conclusions and recommendations, particularly around the delivery of acute care and the need for services and – crucially – resources, to shift to primary/community care in order to best meet patients’ needs.

Reviews are ongoing to ascertain how services need to change and the programme is developing an elective care plan to modernise and transform the delivery of elective care services by addressing the root causes of excessive waiting times – rather than through temporary, short-term approaches.

A workforce plan has also been written and it aims to ensure there are enough staff in the service, that staff feel valued and supported, and that there are systems to monitor workforce trends and address any issues quickly.

As the transformation programme progresses, we are responding and commenting on behalf of members to consultations and departmental announcements.


Duty of candour

John O’Hara QC’s report into the events surrounding the deaths of children due to hyponatremia was published on 31 January 2018. As a consequence of its first recommendation to introduce an individual statutory duty of candour with criminal sanctions, the BMA submitted evidence.

BMA Northern Ireland’s aspiration is for doctors to provide care in a safe and well-run healthcare system. And while the focus on candour in Justice O’Hara’s report is welcome, criminalising doctors and other healthcare professionals will not help us to get there. Those who are responsible for causing harm to patients due to neglect or wilful misconduct should be held to account and sanctioned.

Patient safety debates over the last decade recognise that it is the way that healthcare systems are organised, alongside financial and staffing pressures, that are responsible for breaches in patient safety. The emphasis is on creating the conditions and culture where reporting becomes the norm and, importantly, lessons are learnt and disseminated across the system.

Read the BMA briefing