Stormont health budget not enough to address challenges – BMA

Tom Black, chair of the Northern Ireland Council, also said there was a lack of detail on the pay award for doctors.

Health staff
Health staff

Concern has been expressed over the funding allocation for the health service in the Stormont budget set by the Secretary of State.

Chris Heaton-Harris announced allocations for departments in the continued absence of devolved government in the region.

It includes increased funding for the health service, but Mr Heaton-Harris conceded he does not know if it will be enough to provide pay increases for NHS staff.

Tom Black, chair of the Northern Ireland Council of the British Medical Association, said while he welcomed any additional funding for the health service, this amount “is simply not enough” to address health pressures.

He added: “As we are seeing in our hospitals, emergency departments and GP surgeries, services are already at breaking point or have collapsed entirely.

“Doctors and health service staff have been left to deliver patient care under mounting and dangerous pressures.

“This is unacceptable and heaps moral distress on doctors.”

Mr Black said the lack of detail on the pay award for doctors in the statement on Thursday is “concerning”.

He continued: “The Secretary of State must recognise that health service staff are key to the delivery of important front line services.

“The level of dissatisfaction, low morale and burnout among doctors is as high as it has ever been.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris could not say whether NHS pay rises will be funded (PA)

“This is compounded by successive low pay awards combined with delays in receiving these awards.

“It also drives young doctors out of the health service to other countries and our more experienced doctors to retire early at a time when we need to recruit and retain them.

“The growing workload pressures and patient access issues we see now across our health service is down to historically inadequate levels of funding and an inability by successive governments to acknowledge that health care staff is its most prized asset.

“This budget statement does little to remedy this.”

Meanwhile Ann McGregor, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, voiced concern at “challenging times ahead”.

She added: “NI Chamber has been calling for a budget for Northern Ireland for some time.

“Today, we are seeing the cumulative impact of no agreed budget, coupled with the prolonged absence of strategic decision-making on difficult issues by a functioning executive.

“Until we finally address the fiscal challenges in health, education and infrastructure, it is simply the case that citizens will continue to suffer from sub-optimal services and there will be fewer resources year-on-year to focus on economic growth and job creation.

“The times ahead will be challenging, but with a deeper partnership between business and policymakers we can innovate, drive efficiencies and find sustainable solutions to our fiscal problems.

“NI Chamber will do all it can to support finding a way through the myriad of difficulties.”

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