Royal College of Emergency Medicine Menu Menu

Northern Ireland has just half the A&E consultant doctors it should, RCEM research reveals

Wednesday 6 March

A census of Emergency Medicine workers in Northern Ireland carried out by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM), has revealed there are just half the recommended number of Emergency Medicine consultants currently in place.

Published yesterday (Tuesday 5 March 2024) the report, Northern Ireland Emergency Medicine Workforce Census 2024, analysed data collected from all major A&Es in the country.

Shockingly it shows that the is currently just one consultant per 7,786 A&E attendances. The recommended number is one for every 4,000 patients.

The report was unveiled by RCEM’s Northern Ireland Vice Chair Dr Michel Perry at a special event which took place at Stormont. It was presented to a panel including representatives from Alliance, Sinn Fein, and SDLP as well as Health Secretary Robin Swann.

Dr Russell McLaughlin, RCEM’s Vice President for Northern Ireland said: “To have just half the number of EM consultants we should have in Northern Ireland is shocking.

“Our patients and the EM workforce deserve to have a properly and safely resourced system that functions as it should without patients being subjected to dangerous and undignified long waits and clinicians facing burnout.

“This important report brings in to sharp focus the issues we have been warning about for years. And they cannot be ignored.

“We have provided a clear and achievable set of recommendations to the Executive. All it has to do is implement them – for the good of the health service in Northern Ireland, but more importantly for the good of its patients.”

The report calls for six key actions to #ResuscitateEmergencyCare in Northern Ireland:

  • Plan for, and fund, EM consultant recruitment by an additional 108 by 2030.
  • Centrally fund all current 12 Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency (NIMDTA ) appointed trainees per year plus an additional six for a minimum of six years (18 per year).
  • Incentivise doctors to enter substantive employment as Specialty and Specialist (SAS) doctors rather than career locum working.
  • Investment in postgraduate doctors training (formerly known as ‘junior doctors) places, will improve Emergency Department service provision, reduce locum dependency and produce additional trained doctors (like GPs) who will contribute to the Health and Social Care workforce.
  • Continue the development of the Accredited Clinical Practitioners, Physician Associate and Emergency Nurse Practitioner workforce.
  • An extensive recruitment and retention campaign to attract doctors to train, work and stay in Northern Ireland.

It is the first time that a ‘workforce census’ of this kind has been undertaken in the country.

Similar recommendations made following Workforce Censuses in Scotland and Wales resulted in the governments of those nations agreeing to fund more EM training places.

Back to top Back to top