Armstrong says Health Minister needs to return to allay fears

Alliance Councillor Kellie Armstrong has said the Health Minister needs to step back into post permanently to allay fears Northern Ireland could see controversial changes to junior doctors contracts implemented.

Speaking after a number of Alliance representatives attended a City Hall protest against changes being instigated in England, Councillor Armstrong said the DUP’s ‘in-out’ Ministerial policy was leaving a vacuum, as no decision had been taken on whether to implement similar moves at Stormont.

The proposed changes would see a reclassifying of working hours to 7am-10pm Monday to Saturday and reducing wages by a predicted 30-40 per cent, moves Councillor Armstrong said could lead to medical professionals becoming “tired and ineffective”.

“These plans are deeply concerning for people, because there could be major implications for the welfare of staff and critically, the safety of patients. Alliance has written to the Department of Health to lay out our worries and ascertain more details on their plans.

“While there are of course currently financial and other pressures within the health service and the status quo is not sustainable, the prospect that we could see more difficulties passed onto staff with the associated risks to the wellbeing of patients shows the need to accelerate the reforms that would mean more resources being invested in efficient and effective treatment, as well as supporting frontline staff.

“It is clear the absence of a full-time Minister is exacerbating what is already a dangerous situation. The Scottish and Welsh Governments have been able to give assurances they will not impose this new contract. It’s vital our Health Minister step back into post and do so permanently so he can stop the ongoing uncertainty.”

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