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82% of junior doctors to quit Northern Ireland

Fears of an exodus as counterparts in England stage first strike in 40 years

By Victoria O'Hara

More than 80% of junior doctors here are planning to move elsewhere for their career, a poll has discovered.

As junior doctors in England participated in strike action, Safe Patients, Safe Doctors NI said a survey of 223 such staff indicated that just slightly more than 6% planned to stay here.

The group said 82.1% planned to leave Northern Ireland, with another 11.7% prepared to consider leaving medicine altogether.

The results came as English junior doctors staged walkouts for the first time in 40 years.

The strike came after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt tried to push through a contract that doctors say would threaten patient care.

Dr Michael Moran, a spokesman for Safe Patients, Safe Doctors NI, said: "This is a last resort for the doctors concerned, and there is huge support for them from other doctors, healthcare professionals and members of the public. In Northern Ireland we cannot strike, protest or negotiate as we do not know what lies ahead."

Dr Denise McKeegan, a junior doctor based in the province, added: "Northern Ireland doctors are already going well above and beyond to deal with the NHS in crisis. One more straw and they will leave altogether."

Stormont Health Minister Simon Hamilton has to date not commented on whether he would endorse the changes to the contract here. This has led to calls from junior doctors for him to clarify his position.

Dr McKeegan, a 27-year-old from Glenariffe in Co Antrim, said: "It doesn't have to be this way. A 'no' to the contract in Northern Ireland would change our health system for the better. We would have our pick of the best doctors in the UK, our rota gaps would be filled, and NI would keep its home-grown professionals."

Dr Joanne Deacon, now working in New Zealand, added: "In New Zealand, professional fees such as registration, indemnity, college bills, textbooks and courses are all paid for by your employing health board.

"Morale is high. There is little incentive for me to go home and resume training. It looks terrible personally and professionally.'

Mr Hamilton has previously said: "I have already discussed this issue with the local British Medical Association representatives.

"My officials have also engaged in discussions with local junior doctor representatives to identify the issues specific to the Northern Ireland context. I'm keen to see those discussions continue.

"At all times I have said that I will do what is in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland, and that means I won't do anything that jeopardises patient safety and achieving the highest standard of care."

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