Junior docs contract row could force hospitals to close as medics look to go abroad
A failure to resolve the row over the proposed junior doctor contract could force some Northern Ireland hospitals to close, a senior medic has warned.
Dr Peter Maguire made the worrying prediction as thousands of junior doctors were expected to take to the streets in England today amid a row over changes to their contract.
Doctors in Northern Ireland are not involved in today's industrial action, as no decision has been made on whether the contract will be imposed here.
However, it has been claimed an increasing number of trainee doctors are planning to leave Northern Ireland due to uncertainty over future working conditions.
Dr Maguire, a consultant anaesthetist, said: "Technically there is no dispute here, but doctors in Northern Ireland are following very closely what is happening in England, as history would suggest that what happens there will happen here.
"As a result of the ongoing uncertainty, an increasing number of junior doctors are planning to move to Australia and other countries to work.
"I think it is inevitable that come August there will not be enough junior doctors to fill rotas and services will collapse and hospitals will have to close.
"Smaller hospitals are already finding it difficult to fill rotas, so services will be unable to run if more doctors leave. Basically, doctors here see the writing on the wall and are making preparations to leave Northern Ireland."
Meanwhile, junior doctor Denise McKeegan said doctors in Northern Ireland are already going above and beyond the call of duty to deal with the health service which is slipping deeper into crisis.
Another junior doctor, Dr Michael Moran, said: "We're not scaremongering, the simple fact is that there are better working conditions and pay in other countries, there aren't the concerns about patient safety and this all results in greater job satisfaction."
Health Minister Simon Hamilton said he was aware of the strength of feeling about the new contract. He said: "Our junior doctors deserve a contract which is fair to them and which recognises the key role they play.
"An imposed contract would be the worst possible outcome. I have sympathy for HM Government's desire to create a seven-day NHS but it is essential that we work with our staff to achieve it. Clearly, any strike action in England is regrettable."