More than 600 speciality training opportunities will be available to doctors in Northern Ireland next year.
The additional training places will enable more doctors to specialise in areas such as paediatrics, surgery and psychiatry. The figures announced today are in addition to posts already being filled by doctors undergoing speciality training.
From August 2007, specialist medical training is being reformed in the next stage of the Modernising Medical Careers initiative.
The initiative is designed to improve the quality and safety of patient care through better education and training for doctors. It seeks to ensure more health services are delivered by fully-trained specialist doctors.
Chief Medical Officer Michael McBride said: "The figures announced today mean nearly four times as many doctors will have the opportunity to take up specialist training in Northern Ireland in comparison with previous years. More doctors will be able to train in Northern Ireland and offer a higher quality and wider range of service to patients.
"As always, there is great demand for these training posts and everyone will not be able to have their first choice of speciality. This has always been the case and the number of vacancies in specialities and location is determined by the needs of patients and the health service.
"Nevertheless, with the creation of so many more additional training opportunities, I am confident that doctors will have a much greater chance of securing a training post. Changing the way doctors are trained will ultimately benefit both patients and doctors - patients will be treated by doctors who are already trained and doctors will have the expertise and skills they need to offer the best service to patients."
Doctors will be able to apply for these posts from January 22, 2007.
The aim of Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) is for more patients to be treated by fully trained doctors, rather than doctors in training.
The Senior House Officer grade (SHO) and the Specialist Registrar grade (SpR) are being reformed into a single new training grade. Doctors in this new grade will be called Specialty Registrars (StR). Doctors in the SHO grade typically delivered a large portion of front-line patient care, but they were not being explicitly trained in a specialty. They could spend up to five years in the SHO grade before getting a place on a specialty training programme.
The levels of specialty training are described here in terms of the first years (specialty training year one = ST1, specialty training year two = ST2, ST3, etc). Doctors will compete with other doctors at roughly the same level of experience.