Belfast Telegraph

NI doctors' leader in call for end to 'dysfunction' as he blasts our politicians

By Linda Stewart

Doctors have called on the Assembly to put an end to "stop-start decision-making" and to work together to address the problems in Northern Ireland's healthcare system.

Dr John D Woods, Northern Ireland chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), warned that GP practices were collapsing and a funded rescue plan needed to be put in place now.

Dr Woods will today address the BMA's annual conference in Bournemouth.

He said very little had changed since he addressed the conference last year and the year before.

"All the issues and problems in Northern Ireland I have highlighted previously are the same problems we face today - a political crisis, rising waiting lists, inadequate funding," he said.

The BMA chairman cited the continual changes in the person at the very top as one of the reasons for the "dysfunction" in the health system.

"From June 2015 we have had three Health Ministers in post - roughly a new minister every year," he said.

"This lack of continuity is partly responsible for the dysfunction we see in our health system. Last year I spoke with optimism about a 'blueprint' for reconfiguring our health system, the much anticipated Bengoa Report.

"Last autumn Professor Bengoa published his analysis. It outlined clearly the problems we face in Northern Ireland. In his words, we are standing on a burning platform, a system which has to change or it will collapse.

"Northern Ireland has produced a plethora of reports into its health service, but has comprehensively failed to take much of the advice on board.

"Bengoa recognised services just can't be removed. Maintaining public trust is critical for the success of transformation."

Dr Woods said patients had no confidence in the failed model of reconfiguration by collapse and when any patient service is removed, a safe, superior alternative must be put in place first.

"Nowhere is this more stark than in the crisis faced by primary care," he said.

"Practices are collapsing but because of lack of a health minister we have no rescue plan for general practice in NI. Rather, practice funding is being withdrawn. Northern Ireland needs a funded rescue plan for general practice put in place now. Our junior doctors are facing increasing rota gaps, consultant vacancies are impacting on care, and general practice is struggling to recruit and retain doctors.

"We cannot do any of this with stop-start decision-making. We need our politicians to get back round the table, to work together and to work with us to make sure we can deliver the high quality health system we aspire to."

Dr Woods was speaking ahead of debates at the Annual Representative Meeting in support of GPs in NI, service reconfiguration and workforce planning.

Belfast Telegraph


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