Belfast Telegraph

Overwork and poor morale 'could prompt exodus of doctors from Northern Ireland'


By David Reed

Low morale and increasing pressure could lead to doctors leaving Northern Ireland, a senior doctor will warn today.

Over 70% of consultants here said their morale was low or worse, while four out of five doctors felt they didn't have enough time for ongoing learning and development, according to British Medical Association (BMA) official Dr John D Woods.

He will say the current situation in healthcare needs to change to prevent doctors seeking better working conditions elsewhere.

Dr Woods, who is the BMA's Northern Ireland council chair, is to address the BMA annual conference taking place in Brighton.

His speech will set out concerns over morale in the profession.

He will say: "This year the BMA asked doctors in Northern Ireland about their working lives and the findings have been revealing.

"Doctors feel under pressure in a way in which I don't think they have felt ever before. Seventy per cent of consultants that we surveyed said their morale was either low or worse.

"Over half felt control over how they work had decreased in the last five years.

"Forty-three per cent of junior doctors said there were long-term gaps in their rotas meaning they were under pressure to work additional hours.

"All of our surveys indicate that our doctors have workloads that prevent them having a proper work/life balance, and 60% of doctors think there are better opportunities to work as a doctor outside of Northern Ireland."

Talking about how the situation could be addressed, Dr Woods said the Department of Health's workforce strategy had the potential to improve doctors' working lives as long as there was also long-term, recurrent funding.

He added: "We need a local Assembly and a local Health Minister.

"Over 500 days without a government is too long."

Dr Woods also expressed concerns about the proposal in the O'Hara Inquiry report, which examined hyponatraemia deaths, to stop foundation year doctors from working with children.

He added: "If we exclude junior doctors from the earliest stages of training in paediatrics, how will the specialty be maintained?

"Paediatrics is a specialty which in Northern Ireland already has significant difficulties in recruiting, with 10% of our training posts for future consultants not being filled.

"We want to encourage, not discourage, doctors to specialise in the care of children. The key is appropriate supervision of doctors in training, not a ban on participation."

The BMA's annual representative meeting debates policy and issues faced by the medical profession.

Belfast Telegraph

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