SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath has called for a taskforce to improve the working conditions of junior doctors.
It follows engagement with the British Medical Association (BMA) and a cross-party meeting with representatives of junior doctors.
Mr McGrath said the taskforce should be made up of representatives from the Department of Health and the North’s health trusts.
South Down MLA Mr McGrath said:
“After meeting with our junior doctors and the BMA I was shocked to learn at the working conditions many are dealing with in our various health trusts across the North. Junior doctors in our hospitals are being forced to work without adequate staff rooms and personal space with nowhere to leave their belongings, are being handed their rotas the day that they are set to begin and are missing out on important training due to the sheer volume of work required to keep our hospitals running.
“I cannot understand how the situation was allowed to deteriorate to this extent, but it’s clear it cannot continue. Junior doctors have also been subjected to a huge real-terms wage drop in recent years that must be addressed but in the absence of an Executive or Assembly to do anything about it, I believe the least we can do is deal with concerns around working conditions so that these doctors can be comfortable and have decent conditions at this crucial stage of their careers.
“With the issues around pay and working environments we can hardly be surprised that many of our junior doctors are opting to leave and work in the South, Britain and further afield where they have the potential to earn much more and receive better treatment. The junior doctors of today are our senior doctors and consultants of tomorrow and unless we address these issues the exodus of junior doctors will continue, contributing to the existing staffing crisis that is already causing huge issues within our health service.
“I have appealed directly to the Department of Health’s Permanent Secretary Peter May to convene an urgent taskforce with departmental representatives and representatives from each of our health trusts. If we want our junior doctors to provide the best care possible and develop in their careers then we need to ensure that they get the adequate support, training and can work in a positive atmosphere that meets their basic needs.”