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Special Report

Long on waits, short on funds: UK's National Health Service faces challenges in Northern Ireland

Rita Devlin, the professional development chief at the Royal College of Nurses in Northern Ireland, speaks to FRANCE 24 near a picket line outside Belfast's biggest hospital.
Rita Devlin, the professional development chief at the Royal College of Nurses in Northern Ireland, speaks to FRANCE 24 near a picket line outside Belfast's biggest hospital. FRANCE 24 screengrab

According to opinion polls, the most important issue after Brexit in this Thursday’s UK general election is the National Health Service. In Northern Ireland, where the NHS is described by experts as at breaking point, patients face the longest waiting lists in the UK. Nurses there, who are paid less than their colleagues in England, Scotland and Wales, went on strike earlier this month – 13 percent of nursing positions in the country are vacant.  

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The UK’s two main parties are both promising more funding for the NHS after an election win. Boris Johnson's Conservatives are vowing to inject £35 billion of extra money into the system, while Jeremy Corbyn's Labour say they will top this figure and create 45,000 nursing jobs.

But Helen Fidler, a gastroenterologist and the deputy chair of the British Medical Association, consultants committee, worries that if Brexit occurs, it may make things worse.

“We rely on our overseas doctors and our overseas nurses and allied health professionals to support the NHS,” Fidler said. “[Brexit] threatens to make the workforce crisis we have now considerably worse.”

“It doesn't bring a promise of more funding either," she added.

Click on the player above to watch the full report by Hervé Amoric, Shirley Sitbon and Enda O'Looney.

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