Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Viewpoint: Under doctors' orders

It's a case of good news and bad news as regards our Health Service today.

The good news first: waiting times in accident and emergency departments have fallen significantly due to a change in strategic thinking.

The Department of Health has largely succeeded in reaching a target that most patients should not spend more than four hours in an A&E or minor injuries unit.

Credit where it is due - managers have succeeded in bringing down the unacceptable waiting times that had previously blighted this service.

Hopefully, waiting times can be driven down even further in future. It would help NHS managers greatly, however, if the Northern Ireland public changed its own 'straight-to-casualty' attitude to minor injuries.

Now the bad news: a serious warning has been sounded over a shortage of junior doctors.

The BMA says the problem is now so acute that both patient care and doctors' health is at risk. With a crucial European Working Time Directive approaching, doctors' leaders in the province say this is becoming a critical issue.

No-one would expect the Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey, to needlessly throw money at this issue. But it is one that merits his considerable attention.

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