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Top doctor demands change at Department of Health

Dr John Woods, head of the BMA, has castigated the Department of Health over its lack of engagement with medics
Seanín Graham

THE head of the biggest doctors' union in Northern Ireland has called for a "fundamental change" in the relationship between the Department of Health and the medical profession.

In a hard-hitting attack, Dr John Woods accused senior officials of ignoring the "common sense" views of frontline medics when making important decisions affecting patient care.

Addressing more than 600 delegates at at the annual British Medical Association's annual conference in Liverpool, Dr Woods said Department chiefs must "go back to the drawing board" and listen to doctors in relation to the development of services.

Over the past four years, there has been mounting criticism of how health administrators have attempted to overhaul the north's hospital and community sector as part of a major reform programme.

Some medics have criticised the lack of consultation with frontline staff prior to radical changes and the focus on a "target-driven" culture.

There has also been a number of high-profile patient failings in hospital care, particularly in A&E departments, that have to a string of critical reviews.

Dr Woods said: "Despite review after review, recommendation after recommendation, how many decisions have been made that have genuinely improved services for patients? The answer is very few. And those decisions that have been made do not appear to have taken on board the common sense views of the medical staff delivering the services.

"We continually ask the Northern Ireland Department of Health to involve the BMA in their planning and decision making, to engage with us on any changes. Failure to do so undervalues our members' experience, and misses the opportunity to make genuine, effective changes to improve services.

"They need to involve us more often, more effectively. We should not have to continually knock on their door. Let's have a culture of genuine partnership working with doctors that leads to changes that benefit patients."

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