Belfast Telegraph

Temporary staff sought to fill Northern Ireland hospital posts

By John Mulgrew

Health bosses have said that vacant consultant jobs at hospitals across Northern Ireland may be plugged by temporary locum staff in order to maintain safe services — amid fears frontline patient care could be at risk because of a shortage of senior staff.

Up to 95 consultant posts are unfilled across the health trusts. This is approximately 10% of all consultant posts in Northern Ireland.

It’s understood three out of six positions at Antrim Area Hospital are within the A&E department.

The Northern Trust on Tuesday night said it had been “advertising nationally for three posts”.

The trust placed adverts for three consultants in the Emergency Medicine Department (A&E) at Antrim in the Belfast Telegraph on Tuesday.

Two of the posts are new, while one is said to be a replacement position.

The trust says the jobs are being advertised to “coincide with a time of significant investment” and expansion of the department, which is expected to treat 90,000 patients a year in future.

No salary levels are specified.

Around 20 positions are also vacant at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital, according to figures from September 2011.

They were released after a written question to the Health Minister by the SDLP’s Patsy McGlone.

Mr McGlone said he believed vacancies within the A&E departments were having a direct effect on patient care.

“There is no doubt in my mind. If they are under-staffed then it’s only natural they will be under pressure. The fewer consultants there are — it only stands to reason there will be less people seen. But I have to pay tribute to the staff who are placed under extreme pressure trying to deal with patients.”

The published vacancy figures have shown eight unfilled positions at Belfast City Hospital, 10 at Altnagelvin, 10 at the Ulster Hospital and 12 at Craigavon Area, among others.

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