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Consultants launch scathing attack on ‘incompetent’ NHS top brass

By Lisa Smyth

Published 12/01/2016

Dr Paul Nolan
Dr Paul Nolan

Two leading Northern Ireland consultants have launched a scathing attack on "aggressive" and "incompetent" NHS bosses.

Dr Paul Nolan and Dr Bronagh McElhenny have hit out at the state of the health service in Northern Ireland, claiming NHS bosses "are not the solution but the fundamental problem".

The pair, who have more than 50 years' experience working for the NHS between them, said an increasing number of doctors will leave their jobs unless action is taken to address the situation.

They also said that the large majority of people making key decisions about the health service and the way it is run have little or no experience treating patients.

In an extraordinary letter published in yesterday's Times newspaper, they said: "The greatest frustration experienced by most doctors in our health service is aggressive and incompetent management.

"Doctors enjoy their work but have lost authority and respect - we seem to have the same status as cleaners in our own hospitals.

"The media and government constantly defer to 'NHS bosses'. They are not the solution but the fundamental problem.

"There is an enormous layer of bureaucrats referred to as 'nurse managers, clinical managers and medical directors'. Their titles bely the fact that they rarely, if ever, treat patients.

"Until this issue, more than any other, is addressed, juniors will continue to strike or emigrate and senior doctors will pursue early retirement, leaving a cohort of frustrated and increasingly inexperienced practitioners."

Dr Nolan is a consultant trauma and orthopaedic spinal surgeon, while Dr McElhenny is a consultant anaesthetist. Dr Nolan also works as a tribunal member of the Medical Practitioner Tribunal Service (MPTS), which carries out fitness to practice investigations into doctors.

It is understood they both worked for the Belfast Health & Social Care Trust until recently.

Their comments are the latest damning indictment of the health service - coming amid soaring waiting lists, lengthy trolley waits in emergency departments, possible industrial action by nurses and other health service staff in a row over pay, and a threatened exodus by hospital doctors and GPs from the NHS in Northern Ireland.

Health Minister Simon Hamilton recently announced his intention to axe the Health & Social Care Board (HSCB) in a bid to cut down on bureaucracy in the health service.

The closure of the HSCB is one of a range of measures being implemented by Mr Hamilton in an effort to address concerns over the future of the health service.

He has also appointed an expert panel made up of local and international health experts who will look at the way services are delivered and make recommendations on improvements.

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