Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Revamp of health service stuttering badly, emergency A&E summit told

Minister Edwin Poots will be asked to provide evidence to restore public confidence in health service overhaul
Minister Edwin Poots will be asked to provide evidence to restore public confidence in health service overhaul

Senior medics and unions raised serious concerns during a major health care conference over the lack of action in delivering Transforming Your Care – the overhaul of our health service.

Minister Edwin Poots will now be asked by Stormont's health committee to provide evidence to restore public confidence in TYC.

The move comes after medics and unions spoke of their fears over TYC's implementation during an emergency healthcare summit in Belfast yesterday.

Ireland's most senior health professionals met in Belfast aiming to tackle the crisis facing our emergency departments.

It was the first time such an event was staged in Northern Ireland.

Consultants, managers, GPs, nurses, and union representatives gathered to try and address the A&E problems head-on.

The crisis-hit health system is struggling with major staff shortages and the breaching of patient waiting times.

Among suggestions to tackle the problems was the reintroduction of prescription charges.

President of the College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Clifford Mann, said it provided a "constructive forum" to focus on 10 priorities, including seeking solutions to address the problem of 'exit block' in hospitals.

Addressing the summit, Mr Poots said similar problems were being faced across the UK.

"We are in many ways victims of our own success," he added. "People, especially elderly people, are living longer, fuller lives. However, it does present the health system with significant challenges as to how we work."

Garrett Martin, of the Royal College Of Nursing, said it was a positive event, but the key focus of his speech was the lack of action around delivering TYC.

He said: "There is a greater acknowledgement that there are real problems. We haven't seen on the ground that transformation as such in relation to services delivered to patients in their own homes.

"There hasn't been that investment, and that is why we are seeing the problems manifest in our emergency departments."

The summit was held a day after it was announced the former Chief Medical Officer of England, Sir Liam Donaldson, is to head a group of experts to consider improvements to the way the health service is run here.

Mr Donaldson's appointment was announced as the regulator, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority, published its report into the A&E department at the Royal Victoria Hospital, ordered after a Major Incident was declared in January.

SDLP health spokesman Fearghal McKinney said while there was some value in an emergency health summit, it would not go far enough in addressing the core issues.

"This conference is another step along the way to recognising those underlying difficulties caused by the Transforming Your Care agenda," he said.

"Public confidence in the entire system needs to be addressed and that can be helped by an independent review of the Transforming Your Care targets."

Sinn Fein's Maeve McLaughlin said evidence was needed that the implementation was working.

"The strategic implementation of it and lack of outcomes are where the flaws currently are," she said.

A 60-day follow-up event is to be held on June 9.

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