Department to simplify employment arrangements for junior doctors

Date published: 14 August 2018

The Department of Health today announced its timetable for establishing a single employer for doctors in training in Northern Ireland.

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The planned change is to be in place by August 2019 – simplifying employment arrangements for junior doctors and increasing efficiency in the Health and Social Care service.

At present, postgraduate doctors in training are employed by the local area health trust where they are carrying out their training.  However, as they rotate around different training posts they frequently have to change employers.  This leads to difficulties for these doctors in relation to payroll, maternity/paternity leave arrangements, pre-employment checks, management of grievance and disciplinary processes and the application of standardised policies and procedures.

The Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, Richard Pengelly, said:

“We published the health and social care Workforce Strategy in May.  One of our key actions is to simplify employment arrangements for our staff, and in due course we will explore whether a single employer for all HSC staff is feasible and will produce benefits for staff/patients/clients.  As a first step, we will create a single employer for doctors in training with an intention to bring this into operation on 1 August 2019.

“This is an ambitious but achievable goal.  Department of Health officials will chair a steering group and a working group comprised of senior human resources and medical staff from across the HSC to make sure that we identify and address all the issues.  We will need to decide on the best home for the single employer, standardise HR and payroll arrangements, induction and mandatory training protocols and IT access, among other matters.

“It will make life easier for our junior doctors, who already face a stressful and busy time whilst they are training in our service.  Ultimately the intention is that this will be one of a number of improvements which will make the Health and Social Care service an employer of choice and help us to reduce unsustainable agency and locum costs.”

This latest development follows the announcement, in May, of an initial allocation of £15m in workforce development, from the £100m transformation fund for 2018/19.  Around a third of the £15m is being directed towards the nursing, midwifery and Allied Health Professional workforce. It includes funding for 74 additional pre-registration nursing places, and 25 additional midwifery places, meaning a total of 1000 nursing and midwifery training places are being commissioned from universities in 2018/19 – an all-time high in Northern Ireland.  There has also been additional investment in medical specialty training such as anaesthesiology, radiology, urology and neurology, and plans to fund significant development of Specialty and Associate Specialist roles.

Notes to editors: 

  1. Potential options for the single employer are under consideration including the NI Medical and Dental Training Agency.
  2. The aim of the Workforce Strategy is that by 2026, we meet our workforce needs – and the needs of our workforce.
  3. The Strategy has three objectives:
  • By 2026, the reconfigured health and social care system has the optimum number of people in place to deliver treatment and care, and promote health and wellbeing to everyone in Northern Ireland, with the best possible combination of skills and expertise
  • By 2021, health and social care is a fulfilling and rewarding place to work and train, and our people feel valued and supported
  • By 2019, the Department and health and social care providers are able to monitor workforce trends and issues effectively, and be able to take proactive action to address these before problems become acute.
  1. The Strategy has three consecutive action plan periods, designed to take account of changes and improvements to health and social care over the life of the Strategy to 2026.  The first action plan period runs to 31 December 2020, and contains 24 actions.  Detailed action plans on each will be co-produced between the Department, health and social care service employers and trade unions, and other interest groups.
  2. Specialty and Associate Specialist (SAS) doctors are non-training roles where the doctor has at least four years of postgraduate training, two of those being in a relevant specialty. SAS doctors are usually more focused on meeting service requirements, compared to trainee or consultant roles.
  3. For media enquiries please contact the Department of Health Press Office team on 028 9052 0575 or email For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110 and your call will be returned. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt


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