Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson, Roy Beggs MLA, has said it is ridiculous that the Department of Health believes it must choose between training the right number of doctors or cutting local services.
Roy Beggs said:
“Northern Ireland has an acute and growing problem of a shortage of key medical personnel. As demand grows, the shortage of doctors will only continue to get worse, making an already difficult problem even more pronounced with every passing year.
“It’s been known for some time that we’re in the midst of a workforce crisis in the local health service. There are over 7,000 vacancies across the system and a worrying number of them are for key consultant, GP and nursing posts.
“The current problems are a direct result of the failure to workforce plan, combined with the opportunistic actions of private healthcare recruitment agencies. The increasing reliance on bank doctors and nurses is in part due to so many staff leaving the NHS to go work for health agencies, attracted by their promises of higher pay and fewer working hours.
“It is ridiculous therefore that the local Health Department have claimed it will only be able to increase the number of doctors it trains, if it cuts local services.
“NHS funding should be used tactically to develop a sustainable workforce solution, but that’s just not happening at present. Huge sums of money are being spent by the local Trusts each year on temporary staff and that’s crippling their ability to instead appoint new permanent staff.
“Any wider review of medical training must also include an acceptance by future students that if the taxpayer is expected to pay for most of their training – costing around £200,000 for each new doctor – then certain expectations must be placed on them on remaining within the NHS for a minimum period of time.
“It is especially important that the practice of some medical students receiving their full training here only to immediately move abroad for work is ended.”