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Surgeons respond to Northern Ireland 2023/24 budget statement from Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris

27 Apr 2023

Responding to the budget announcement delivered today by the Secretary of State Chris Heaton Harris, Mr Mark Taylor, Director in Northern Ireland for the Royal College of Surgeons of England said:

“Health has been given the same £7.3 billion budget as last year, but the Department of Health (DOH) has already indicated they need £7.8 billion, which is a very concerning £500 million shortfall.

“For those keen on reducing the waiting lists this is extremely disappointing.  Coupled with sustained political uncertainty this is bad news for those who want to plan sustainably for the future.

“Everyone in the health service is working extremely hard to provide the best care to patients, but on a daily basis they walk into work knowing they have a mountain to climb. Friends and colleagues are on stress leave and highly skilled and experienced people are choosing to retire early.  Some key resources are gone and teams have been changed forever as a result of the pandemic. At the same time, we are being asked to do the same with less.

“In Northern Ireland there are 122,267 patients waiting for surgery or treatment as a day case or inpatient and 378,411 waiting to see a consultant for the first time. Thousands of people have been waiting 5, 6 or 7 years for surgery or an appointment.   These sorts of waits will inevitably involve long-term deterioration associated with untreated major disease.

“To help make significant inroads into the waiting lists long term, we need proper workforce planning, a sustained political arrangement at Stormont and a recurrent protected budget that prioritises waiting lists and ring-fences teams required to reduce the backlog. Getting systems back on track and patients through our health service in a timely fashion remains the goal for all of us.”


Notes to editors

  1. The Royal College of Surgeons of England submission to NI Affairs Select Committee inquiry on ‘The funding and delivery of public services in Northern Ireland’ is here
  2. Department of Health budget briefing
  3. The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS England) provides world-class education, assessment and development to 30,000 surgeons, dental professionals and members of the wider surgical and dental care teams, at all stages of their career. Our vision is to see excellent surgical care for everyone. We do this by setting professional standards, facilitating research and championing the best outcomes for patients.
  4. A Professional Board of over 20 surgeons represents RCS England in Northern Ireland. They reflect the specialty areas of neurosurgery, ENT, paediatrics, general surgery, trauma and orthopaedics, plastics, urology, vascular, cardiothoracic and OMFS.
  5. The Professional Board includes 10 elected regional specialty advisors, Association of Surgeons in Training (ASiT), QUB & UU Medical School Surgical Society, NIMDTA Head of the School of Surgery, SAS doctors and an RCS England Council member.
  6. The purpose of the Board is to improve surgical outcomes for patients, advocate locally and support the dissemination of good practice and professional guidance.
  7. Recent NI College publications include surgical manifesto for the NI 2022 assembly elections and Action Plan for the Recovery of Elective Surgery 10 Steps Not 10 Years.
  8. For more information, please contact the Press Office: Telephone: 020 7869 6052/6055 Email: Out-of-hours media enquiries: 0207 869 6056.

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