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Belfast's hospital services face biggest shake-up in years

By Lisa Smyth

A major overhaul of a range of acute services in hospitals across Belfast is planned that will lead to the creation of centres of excellence for cardiology, gynaecology and dermatology patients.

Health bosses at the Belfast Trust have launched a public consultation for their plans to reorganise and improve the treatment for patients with a variety of conditions including heart and skin conditions and orthopaedic services for children, by bringing together teams of medical experts and resources under one roof.

It is the biggest shake-up of acute services at the Royal, City, Mater and Musgrave hospitals and the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children seen in years and chief executive of the trust, William McKee, believes it will result in better care for patients and treatments being delivered in a more efficient manner.

Departments under the spotlight in the review are those that deliver general and vascular surgery, gynaecology, urology, ear, nose and throat (ENT), ophthalmology, adult rheumatology and dermatology and cardiology.

In addition, there are proposals for a range of children’s services — paediatric ENT, ophthalmology, cardiac surgery, orthopaedics and rheumatology.

Emergency and elective general surgery is currently provided at the Royal, City and Mater hospitals but under the plans anyone requiring emergency general surgery will be treated at the Royal, while planned procedures will take place at the City and Mater hospitals.

Vascular surgery, which is currently provided at both Royal and City Hospitals, will go to the Royal

in keeping with its role as the centre for major emergency and trauma services.

Cardiology services are also under review — while patients with heart conditions will continue to be treated at the Royal, City and Mater hospitals, specialist services will be situated at the Royal.

The trust is also looking at the provision of treatment of gynaecology conditions and would like to centralise the service at the City.

“Gynae is on three sites at the moment but if you talk to the clinicians they are very keen for it to go to one site,” said Mr McKee.

Urology services — for those patients with urinary tract and bladder conditions — is also under review with the trust proposing they are all centralised at the City where 80% of patients are already treated.

Mr McKee said it is hoped to relocate ear, nose and throat (ENT) services to the Royal.

“The service is currently provided at the Royal and City and the main driver behind putting it at the Royal is that the accommodation at the City is very poor and we have better accommodation at the Royal,” he said.

As well as providing general ophthalmology services — the branch of medicine which deals with the anatomy, functions and diseases of the eye — for the population of greater Belfast, the trust also provides regional specialist services at the Royal and Mater hospitals.

Under the review, the trust plans to centralise services at the Mater. The locations where patients with joint and skin conditions are treated could also be changed under the plans.

Adult rheumatology and dermatology services are currently provided at the Royal, Musgrave and City hospitals but there are plans to locate inpatient rheumatology and dermatology at the City. Day case dermatology services will be provided at both the Royal and City hospitals.

Biologic treatments for patients with skin and joint conditions, which require specialist equipment, will be centralised at the City.

Some children’s services are also under review, including paediatric ENT, rheumatology and orthopaedics.

Mr McKee said he is confident the proposals will be given the green light by the public and that he hopes to begin implement the changes by the autumn.

Belfast Telegraph

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