Megan Fearon asked Edwin Poots, Minister of Health, what measures he is taking to retain the highest proportion of health professionals qualifying from our local universities during today’s Question Time. Mr Poots declared his satisfaction with “a much higher percentage of local medical school graduates than in any other region of the UK” with 80% of doctor training places filled by graduates from Queen’s university, Belfast. And nearly £8m a year is invested in the post-registration training of nurses with a similar percentage (79%) of Queen’s graduates employed in Northern Ireland.
The Minister also discussed the prospect of pay restraint for health and social care staff. Pay restraint is one of the measures being considered by the Minister to address the current £140m funding gap in health and social care. In England, staff are receiving 1% or an incremental rise. Mr Poots would like to offer 1% in addition to the incremental rise but giving one or the other would save the Department £14.9m. How much the Department receives in the October monitoring round will have an impact on how much staff will receive, confirming that there will be a rise of some description and “whether it involves pay restraint depends on the envelope delivered to me by my Executive colleagues”.
Mr Poots also answered questions on mental health services in the Western Trust, the workforce planning action plan, duty of care and the pharmaceutical price regulation scheme. During the topical question period the Minister also answered questions on challenges at the Antrim Area Hospital, paediatric cardiac care and surgery, drugs for rheumatoid arthritis, consultancy services and the pressure on A&E departments during the winter months.