Edwin Poots: Lift ban on medics from outside EU
Health Minister Edwin Poots said he would be prepared to challenge restrictions that prevent doctors from outside the EU working in Northern Ireland to assist with staff shortages.
Mr Poots said he would consider action if he believes the current shortage of doctors is impacting on the health, or to the detriment, of patients.
"Last week, I raised the matter with Theresa Villiers that we used to be able to bring doctors into Northern Ireland from any Commonwealth country," Mr Poots told MLAs.
"However, because of European regulations, we are being restricted in doing that. I for one will be very prepared to challenge European regulations if they impact detrimentally on people's health. I will encourage the Home Office and land and border security to look at those issues."
During minister's question time, Mr Poots was asked to outline the number of junior doctors recruited by the Southern Health and Social Care Trust.
In 2012-13 there were six junior doctors appointed in the trust.
In 2013-14 there were two junior doctors appointed.
Mr Poots said there were also problems attracting middle grade doctors to posts.
Earlier this month health officials in Belfast had to call in extra staff to implement a major incident plan to tackle a huge backlog of patients seeking help in the Royal.
At one point, 42 people were waiting on trolleys and tearful nurses likened their department to a war-zone.
Across the UK, there is a 50% shortage of staff in A&E units.