The impact of the Northern Ireland Troubles on healthcare provision and medical practice

  • Ruth Coon

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examines the provision of healthcare throughout the period of the Troubles in Northern Ireland (1968-1998). It reveals the ways in which the conflict impacted on the supply of services, healthcare facilities and their operation, and on the many staff of the health service. The longevity of the conflict and its infiltration into all aspects of life in Northern Ireland combined with its continued effects on the population (such as on mental health) until the present day make this an important area of study.

Using both archival research and oral testimony this thesis builds on earlier research which has examined ethical challenges faced by medical personnel working during the Troubles. This study uncovers the many and varied effects that the conflict had on the health service. It reveals the complex situation which existed in healthcare during the period, the controversies medical professionals faced, problems with the concept of neutrality and the paradox of service provision.

Medical professionals were faced with the often-brutal consequences of the violence but generally took a ‘get on with the job’ attitude and recognised that the need to maintain the appearance of neutrality was important. Problems with neutrality, however, occurred and there were negative and sometimes serious consequences from this. Despite the suggestions that staff just got on with their jobs this thesis uncovers how medical staff were affected by dealing with the violence and destruction the conflict caused. Cases of burnout and PTSD are evidenced and demonstrate the cost the conflict has taken on the mental health of medical personnel.

Significantly, there was a lack of support available to them despite the need. This study’s uncovering and analysis of the many effects of the conflict on the health service and its workings makes a unique and beneficial contribution to the current historiography on the Northern Ireland health service and on the history of the Troubles.
Date of AwardMay 2021
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsDepartment for the Economy
SupervisorLeanne McCormick (Supervisor) & Ian Miller (Supervisor)


  • Medicine
  • Conflict
  • Oral history
  • The Troubles
  • Mental health
  • NHS
  • Hospitals

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