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The time is now: 6 months on

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The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has published findings and recommendations following its 2022 president’s roundtable in Belfast.

The RCP is calling on assembly members to form an executive, pass a multi-year budget, and take urgent action across the health and care system to support the HSCNI workforce, improve patient care and tackle inequalities.

Earlier this year, we published The time is now with our colleagues in the royal colleges of physicians of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and after the election we called on assembly members to secure a multi-year budget for HSCNI. This latest briefing, with 24 recommendations from the RCP, looks at the situation today, in which we report findings from the 2021 census of consultant physicians and higher specialty trainees in the UK:

  • 53% of NI consultant physicians report daily or weekly trainee rota gaps. 
  • 40% of NI consultant physicians say they have substantive consultant vacancies in their department. 
  • 28% of NI higher specialty trainees (HSTs) say they almost never feel in control of their workload. 
  • 41% of NI HSTs say they feel emotionally drained at work almost all or most of the time. 
  • 58% of NI HSTs say they work excessive hours and 55% have an excessive workload. 
  • 75% of NI HSTs report daily or weekly rota gaps. 

Almost six months after the assembly election, there is still no functioning executive at Stormont, and doctors in Northern Ireland are warning that the HSCNI workforce is exhausted and reaching burnout. Patient demand is rising and healthcare reform is slow. Without a multi-year budget, HSCNI cannot expand the medical workforce, invest in new models of integrated care or tackle growing poverty and inequality (which itself puts huge pressure on the health service).