RVH rocked as lead consultant quits A&E amid row over lack of support
A lead consultant at the Royal Victoria Hospital's Emergency Department has resigned, it can be revealed.
Dr Sinead Campbell-Gray left her post yesterday as the Clinical Lead for emergency medicine at the department.
The Belfast Trust confirmed Dr Campbell-Gray, who was in the post for a matter of months, resigned for "personal" reasons.
However, it is understood in her resignation letter she expressed that her position was "untenable" due to a lack of support to introduce vital changes to the department that has been described at "breaking point".
Her resignation comes weeks after Health Minister Edwin Poots publicly criticised the Belfast Trust for its failure to plan to cope with pressures in its emergency department in January – before Dr Campbell-Gray took up the post.
She will continue to work as a consultant at the A&E. The departure of such a senior doctor, however, has been described as "alarming" by a leading union.
Unison said it was the third Clinical Lead in emergency medicine to resign within 12 months.
A spokeswoman for the Belfast Trust said: "The consultant currently carrying out the additional duties of Clinical Lead has resigned from this aspect of her post for personal reasons; however she remains a very valued emergency medicine consultant.
"The trust is presently recruiting to appoint to the more senior post of Clinical Director for both the Mater and Royal Victoria Hospital Emergency Departments."
But Ray Rafferty from Unison said it was a warning sign that steps to address the problems at the Emergency Department were failing and staff were not being supported to carry out changes.
"I would be alarmed that here we have a third medical professional consultant who is resigning within a year due to the pressures and stress of trying to run an effective, safe emergency medicine unit in the Belfast Trust.
"It indicates that all the hard work and effort that has gone into resolving the problems since the crisis in January hasn't been effective.
"It also points out that yet another Clinical Lead has had to resign to highlight their concerns for the safety of patients."
In November 2012, almost all the emergency medicine consultants in the Belfast Health Trust raised concerns about the safety of A&E.
The Health Minister instructed the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) to carry out a review of A&E services after a major incident at the Royal Victoria Hospital's A&E unit on January 8 this year.
It was declared due to a backlog of patients at the department. Additional staff had to be called in and extra beds opened to relieve pressure on the unit.
At one stage, 42 people were waiting on trolleys and staff described the situation as "horrendous". In July a health watchdog report by the RQIA identified planning and "systems failings" by the trust in the period leading up to it.
A departmental spokesman said: "The recruitment and deployment of staff is the responsibility of the Belfast Trust.
"The minister looks to the Trust and the Health and Social Care Board to ensure that the necessary resources are provided to deliver safe and sustainable healthcare services."
Doctor was first queen's graduate to complete helicopter trauma course
Originally from Cookstown, Dr Sinead Campbell-Gray attended St Patrick's Academy Dungannon and studied medicine at Queen's University Belfast.
After she trained she spent a year in a trauma unit in Brisbane, Australia. In 2001 she completed her surgery and emergency medicine training in Belfast.
She was the first Queen's graduate to complete the Helicopter Emergency Service (HEMS) London helicopter crew course. In August 2003 she relocated and worked in the north-east of England as a specialist registrar in emergency medicine and pre-hospital care.
She was a flying trauma doctor with the Great North Air Ambulance Service. She has since relocated back to work within the Belfast Trust area and had been based at the Mater Hospital in Belfast. Dr Campbell-Gray was appointed Clinical Lead of emergency medicine earlier this year after a major incident was declared at the Royal Victoria Hospital's A&E unit on January 8.
This week she resigned but will continue to work as a emergency medicine consultant in the A&E.