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Our Northern Ireland priorities

In her first special bulletin to RCP fellows and members in Northern Ireland, Dr Sarah Clarke looks back at a successful RCP Update in Belfast, the launch of our briefing paper, The time is now – 6 months on, and highlights plans for an online workshop with trainees in March 2023.

It doesn’t seem long since I visited Northern Ireland in September on my first full day as RCP president and met many of you at the very successful RCP Update in medicine – Belfast. I am very grateful to all of you for the warm welcome and support I received then and in the weeks since, and as I reach three months in post, I wanted to update you all personally on the work the RCP has been doing to support our fellows and members in Northern Ireland.

Through our work with regional advisers and elected committee members, we have been doing our best to raise awareness of the issues that matter to you. Many of you will remember that before the Stormont election we published The time is now: an action plan to rebuild the health and care system in Northern Ireland with the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (RCPSG), after which we met with the then minister of health, Robin Swann MLA, to discuss our recommendations.

When the election results ended in stalemate, we coordinated a joint statement with the RCPE and RCPSG, calling for a multi-year budget to protect the health service, and while I was in Belfast in September, we held a private stakeholder roundtable with senior Department of Health officials and HSCNI leadership to discuss the key issues you have raised with me.

My priority is to speak out on your behalf, raising awareness of the vital work done by physicians as well as the importance of supporting you to provide excellent patient care and deliver high-quality medical education.

We want to keep the pressure on, reminding politicians that while negotiations continue in Stormont and Westminster, our fellows and members continue to work day in, day out in a health service that is struggling to recruit, while dealing with growing patient demand and a crisis in social care.

Things are tough out there. This is why we recently published The time is now – 6 months on (you may have seen some of the media coverage) and we are continuing to work with assembly members to raise awareness of the challenges on the ground.

In the spring, we’re planning an online event for trainee physicians and specialty doctors. Join me, along with the RCPE and RCPSG presidents, for an evening event on 1 March 2023 and tell us about your experience working in HSCNI. What do we need to know? How can we advocate on your behalf? Keep an eye out for more details winging your way soon!

In the meantime, we welcome your feedback. If you have comments around any of this work, do get in touch with Lowri Jackson, head of policy and campaigns for Wales and Northern Ireland, who can be contacted via email at Lowri.Jackson@rcp.ac.uk.

I hope you will have time with family and friends in the next few weeks and wish you all happy and restful holidays. I look forward to seeing you in 2023.

With best wishes,

Dr Sarah Clarke
Royal College of Physicians