South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has raised the issue of Accident and Emergency service provision with the UK Health Secretary during Health Questions in the House of Commons.
Speaking from Westminster on Tuesday 10 JUne, Ms Ritchie said: “A critical shortage of adequately trained A&E doctors is causing severe problems for hospitals in Northern Ireland, including the Downe Hospital, and until the recruitment and retention regime is improved this will continue to be the case.
“I am pleased the Health Secretary informed me he has met regularly with the College of Emergency Medicine for the UK and Ireland in the last six months and he has pledged to work with the devolved administrations to improve A&E contract structures and training schedules. The UK government need to recognise just how urgent this problem is, which has not been the case in recent months.
“During a previous meeting I held with Dr Clifford Mann, the President of the College of Emergency Medicine , I was informed that NHS England has a process to recruit doctors from India and Eastern Europe who can help fill the gaps that exist for A&E services. However, there is uncertainty as this program progresses how these new recruits will be allocated to hospitals. I want to ensure that hospitals in the north of Ireland are able to make use of this resource and I hope the Northern Ireland Health Minister will take action on this.
“This measure, while welcome, would only represent a short term measure and for a proper solution there needs to be a long-term overhaul of the incentives and conditions for newly trained medics to encourage them to develop a career in A&E medicine, which will involve long and anti-social hours. As it stands we are losing these people to countries like Australia where they are offered better prospects and support, with only six per cent returning to practice here,” added Ms Ritchie.