The Stormont health minister is attempting to “duck responsibility” for the new junior doctor contract in Northern Ireland, according to Conservative spokesman, Frank Shivers.  Mr Shivers said Simon Hamilton was effectively “sticking his fingers in his ears and hoping the issue goes away”, after a department of health spokeswoman confirmed that the minister will not respond to doctors’ concerns about patient safety.

“Simon Hamilton seems to be abdicating all responsibility for a matter which is devolved and could have profound repercussions for our health service”, Frank noted.  “He says he doesn’t want to impose the contract, which is proposed for England, but he won’t speak to doctors in Northern Ireland and his solution is simply to suggest BMA representatives in England resume negotiations with the government.  The Scottish and Welsh governments have already stated they won’t introduce the contract, so it looks like Mr Hamilton wants to shift the responsibility elsewhere for a potentially unpopular measure.”

“Conservatives in Northern Ireland have stated that we don’t think the new contract should apply here, because we have particular problems around doctor recruitment and resources.  We want to see more services in hospitals extended over seven days, but this has to be achieved by investment and the money is not currently available, because welfare reform has not been properly implemented.  Without more resources, if monitoring procedures preventing doctors working long hours are removed, there are legitimate concerns about patient safety.  Mr Hamilton is the health minister for Northern Ireland.  He should start acting like it, take decisions and meet stakeholders, rather than hide behind anonymous spokespeople and hope important issues will go away.”