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Surgical leaders convene in Belfast to discuss Northern Ireland's healthcare recovery

30 Aug 2022

A group of leading surgical experts and Government representatives have come together in Belfast to discuss the future of Northern Ireland’s healthcare system.

Health Minister Robin Swann and Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Michael McBride were joined by delegates from Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Royal College of Surgeons of England, and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, who all represent members in Northern Ireland, to discuss the range of challenges currently facing the surgical workforce. 


Healthcare workers from a wide variety of surgical roles, including trainees and surgical nurses, were invited to attend the full-day session where talks were delivered by 15 surgical professionals on a range of topics, including elective treatment centres and attracting the next generation of surgeons. 


The event also provided an opportunity for the Department of Health to present the findings of a number of reviews into surgical services they have facilitated over the last two years, as well as the significant transformational change they hope to deliver going forward.    

Robin Swann, Minister of Health said: “I am fully dedicated to ensuring we rebuild our services, to ensuring we deliver high quality, efficient surgical services for our population, and that we support and enable our workforce to provide the best care for the people of Northern Ireland.”

“By bringing together experts who work in our healthcare services here in Northern Ireland with those who work in and across other healthcare systems we can learn from each other and we can ensure rebuilding of our surgical services is informed and underpinned by the highest quality of evidence and experience.”  


Professor Michael Griffin OBE, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, said: “There are some significant challenges being faced in Northern Ireland at the moment when it comes to surgical backlogs and this event was an incredibly important opportunity to meet with healthcare workers and decision makers to discuss these issues and share ideas on what steps can be taken to improve surgical care delivery.” 



Professor Neil Mortensen, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “Northern Ireland has the longest waiting times for planned surgery in the UK.  It is essential that the programme to recover surgical services continues at pace.  That’s why today’s meeting is so important, as it brings together surgeons from across Northern Ireland with colleagues from England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland, to share approaches and experiences. 


“Mr Mark Taylor and our Northern Ireland Board have worked tirelessly advising government and the health service on the changes that are needed.  In February I visited an excellent example of a surgical hub in Lagan Valley, where planned surgery has been able to go ahead in spite of the new challenges presented by COVID.  But there is a long way to go to banish long waits to the history books.  We cannot afford to lose any momentum.”


Mike McKirdy, President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, said:

“Northern Ireland has some of the steepest challenges of any country in the UK when it comes to surgical care. This meeting was an excellent opportunity to engage with politicians and clinicians from across the UK to share best practice and identify steps to alleviate some of the chronic issues we’re seeing, particularly around the backlog of care.

We are committed as ever to play our part alongside our sister Colleges in ensuring our clinicians are supported through these extraordinarily difficult times and that solutions can be found to put surgical services in Northern Ireland on the footing required to deliver for patients.”

Professor Laura Viani, President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, also commented: “The issues facing the delivery of surgical care are similar in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. As such, we understand and acknowledge the challenges experienced by our Fellows and Members in Northern Ireland, and their patients. We were delighted to be part of this important forum and we will continue to engage and collaborate on surgical care, training and education for the benefit of patients across the island of Ireland.”



Notes to editors

For further information, please contact or 07730 415096.


About The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh:

  • RCSEd was first incorporated as the Barber Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1505 and is based in Edinburgh and Birmingham.
  • It is one of the oldest surgical corporations in the world with a worldwide membership of almost 30,000, which includes 15,000 members in the UK.
  • The College also has a significant global presence with members in over 100 countries worldwide. 
  • The College promotes the highest standards of surgical and dental practice through education, training and examinations, its liaison with external medical bodies and representation of the modern surgical and dental workforce.
  • It is also home to the UK’s only Faculty of Surgical Trainers, open to all those with an interest in surgical training regardless of College affiliation.

Find RCSEd at, on Twitter, on Facebook, and Instagram


About the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow:

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow has 15,000 Fellows and Members across Scotland, the UK and internationally. Established in 1599, the College was and remains today, the only Royal College in the UK that brings together physicians, surgeons and other health professionals. We listen to our membership and support their commitment to deliver the best outcomes for their patients and inspire the next generation of healthcare professionals.


About The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland:


Founded by Royal Charter in 1784, to set and support professional standards for surgical training and practice, The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has been shaping healthcare in Ireland for over 230 years.

Today, RCSI offers a range of programmes for surgeons and healthcare professionals across the spectrum of medicine and health sciences. The College is the accredited postgraduate training body for the delivery of surgical and emergency medicine training programmes in the Republic of Ireland.

RCSI provides collegiate support to a community of over 10,000 surgical Fellows and Members, practicing in 87 countries worldwide. The College also works to provide leadership, insight and support to healthcare policymakers, regulators and service providers in pursuit of excellence in surgical care.



About The Royal College of Surgeons of England:

The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS England) is a professional membership organisation and registered charity. The College provides world-class education, assessment and development to more than 28,000 surgeons, dental professionals and members of the wider surgical and dental care teams, at all stages of their career. The College sets professional standards, facilitates research and champions the best outcomes for patients – with a vision to see excellent surgical care for everyone.

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