Concerns have been raised about the funding allocation for the health service in Stormont’s budget set by the Secretary of State.
Chris Heaton-Harris announced allocations for departments in the continued absence of devolved government in the region.
It includes increased funding for the health service, but Mr Heaton-Harris admitted he was unsure whether that would be enough to provide pay rises for NHS staff.
Tom Black, chairman of the Northern Ireland Council of the British Medical Association, said that while he welcomed any additional funding for the health service, the amount “is simply not enough” to meet the health pressures.
He added: “As we see in our hospitals, emergency departments and medical practices, services are already at breaking point or have completely collapsed.
“Doctors and health service staff have had to provide patient care under increasing and dangerous pressures.
“This is unacceptable and causes moral distress among doctors.”
Mr Black said the lack of detail on doctors’ pay in Thursday’s statement is “concerning”.
He continued: “The Secretary of State must recognize that health service personnel are essential to the delivery of important frontline services.
“The level of dissatisfaction, low morale and burnout among doctors is higher than it has ever been.
“This is compounded by successive low salary awards combined with delays in receiving those awards.
“It also pushes young doctors to leave the health service to go to other countries and our more experienced doctors to retire early at a time when we need to recruit and retain them.
“The growing workload pressures and patient access issues we are currently seeing across our health services are due to historically insufficient funding levels and the failure of successive governments to recognize that the health workforce is its most valuable asset.
“This budget statement does little to address that.”
Meanwhile, Ann McGregor, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said she was concerned about “difficult times ahead”.
She added: “NI Chamber has been calling for a budget for Northern Ireland for some time.
“Today we see the cumulative impact of the absence of an agreed budget, coupled with the prolonged absence of strategic decision-making on difficult issues by a functional executive.
“Until we finally address the fiscal challenges in health, education and infrastructure, it is simply true that citizens will continue to suffer from suboptimal services and there will be less of resources year after year to focus on economic growth and job creation.
“Times ahead will be challenging, but with a deeper partnership between business and policy makers, we can innovate, increase efficiency and find lasting solutions to our fiscal challenges.
“NI Chamber will do everything in its power to help find a way through the myriad difficulties.”