Editor's Viewpoint: Impending crisis over shortage of doctors is further proof of our politicians fiddling while the health service burns
The latest depressing medical statistics show we may be facing a serious shortage of doctors. A Department of Health report reveals that we need 100 more new trainees annually to fill posts.
It is crucial steps are taken to fill these posts, given that Northern Ireland has the longest waiting times its ever had for outpatients and routine surgery.
The causes for such gaps in the medical services are well-known. There is an increasing elderly population, increasing demands on GPs, while other pressure points have manifested themselves for some time.
Family doctors are often referred to as the "gateway" to further NHS treatment, though the waiting rooms and wards of our hospitals are already seriously oversubscribed.
Doctors have many other demands arising from their jobs. It is little wonder some are tempted to retire early, while prospective students might think again about making a career in medicine. It is not hard to figure out why the profession here is finding it so difficult to fill certain positions. There is also the reality that some juniors soon leave for better prospects elsewhere. So something must also be done to persuade those we train to remain here.
There is a great need for extra investment to shore up GP services, as well as making use of other professionals in the practices to share the workload.
However, this can only be a partial solution. The comprehensive Bengoa Report set out a clear road map to make our NHS more efficient.
Yet, scandalously, its recommendations have yet to be implemented because of the political stalemate.
Once again we are seeing the corrosive effect of the Stormont logjam on issues which affect the lives of ordinary people. As many know only too well from their unfortunate personal experiences, we cannot put a price on good health. Sadly, however, it does not look as if there will be any breakthrough on these important issues any time soon.