Dr Brian Patterson, Chairman of the BMA's Northern Ireland Council today warned that the health service financial belt will have to be tightened even further.
In his speech to the 500 delegates at the BMA's annual conference in Liverpool, Dr Patterson began by outlining that the Review of Public Administration (RPA), of which the BMA was supportive, has been completed. Dr Patterson said,
"We are looking forward to the new streamlined structures delivering the promised quality health service. However, as we had feared, the Review of Public Administration did not release, in real terms, the promised tranche of money to reinvest in expansion of frontline services. The likelihood is that some services will disappear.
"For example, huge sums are wasted on agency nurses and doctors, and we would get much better value by expanding the normal workforce. This would result in less cost and more continuity of care for patients".
Dr Patterson added "The reliance on the private sector both inside and outside Northern Ireland is hugely expensive and we must find ways of delivering timely care without these luxuries which we can't afford.
Concerns over gaps in doctors' rotas
The Chairman also outlined the huge challenge that is the change required to comply with the new European Working Time Directive, saying:
"We have experienced great difficulty getting accurate figures on likely compliance from the Northern Ireland Trusts, and have grave concerns because of the gaps in local junior doctor rotas. We will insist on real compliance by employers".
Blatant attempts to obtain confidential patient information without consent
Dr Patterson finished his speech by warning of the "growing tendency to be cavalier with confidential patient information and the increasing number of blatant attempts to get non-anonymous information without recourse to the patient.
"Clinicians, as data controllers, must be vigilant and prepared to insist on adherence to proper data protection principles.
"We are all patients and we have a right to say who accesses our personal information and for what purpose".