Fears over junior doctor shortage
A shortage of junior doctors in Northern Ireland is threatening patient safety, the British Medical Association claims.
The NHS workforce in the region is short of 86 newly-trained doctors and could be down as many as 120 by early next year, according to the BMA.
David Farren, chairman of the BMA's junior doctor committee in Northern Ireland, issued the stark warning as 200 new foundation grade doctors took up their posts.
"The medical workforce is currently short of approximately 86 junior doctors, with emergency medicine, paediatrics and surgery amongst the worst-affected," he said.
Dr Farren said it is "not a new problem" and added that the BMA has "repeatedly raised" it with Health Minister Michael McGimpsey.
"BMA estimates that the shortage of junior doctors will rise to around 120 by February, with this shortage potentially forcing trusts to withdraw services.
"We have already seen this happen and junior doctors have been unfairly labelled as the instigators of the withdrawal of services.
"This is quite simply not the case as junior doctors are allocated where they will work by the Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency (NIMDTA).
"The bottom line is that there are not enough junior doctors working in Northern Ireland. This needs to be properly tackled to ensure that safe care is delivered to patients in the future."