Doctors suffering from low morale could leave Northern Ireland, BMA warns

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The majority of doctors in Northern Ireland say their morale is low or worse, the British Medical Association has warned.

The representative body has also called for Stormont to be reconvened, saying 500 days and counting of no health minister being in post is “too long”.

In January last year, GPs wrote an open letter to Stormont politicians warning that many practices are struggling to recruit and to retain family doctors, urging extra funding urgently.

Sixteen months later, the chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Northern Ireland will tell the organisation’s annual conference that the current situation needs to change to prevent doctors leaving.

Speaking at the conference, which is taking place in Brighton this week, John Woods detailed the findings of a recent survey of doctors.

“Seventy per cent of consultants that we surveyed said their morale was either low or worse,” he said.

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

“Forty-three percent 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.”

The BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting debates policy and issues faced by the medical profession.

A Department of Health spokesman said it noted the findings of the survey, and “looks forward to working with the BMA and others to implement the health and social care workforce strategy”.

He said: “The aim of the strategy is that by 2026 we meet our workforce needs and the needs of our workforce.

“We need the right number of staff, sustainably funded, with the proper mix of skills, and excellent training and development provision.

“If we achieve this, we will address the recruitment and retention problems which affect the system, and which lead to pressure on the service and to use of expensive agency and locum workers.”

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