Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Direct health cash to community-focused care

MORE than four weeks later, it's still hard to forget Health Minister Edwin Poots' remarks that there was no crisis at the heart of our health service.

It's more difficult to forget after the testimony of staff and patients who have discovered that the crisis may have contributed to deaths, instead of saving lives.

Minister Poots admitted that individual and collective trust decisions, such as reducing A&E services at Downe and Lagan Valley, were neither strategic nor productive. It's a huge understatement.

Under Transforming Your Care, resources will be diverted from A&E units and redirected into community services. The overarching problem is that we have started to take the money out of A&E and completely neglected robust investment in community care. The end result is unsustainable stress on our hospitals, while community provision simply isn't there to manage the burden.

Frontline health service staff are being stretched to their limits and have shown tireless devotion to patients and their families. But too many people are being forced to use A&E as the front door for healthcare provision. If we address the demand, we can begin to resolve the problem overall.

We must now direct urgent funding for community-focused alternatives, which will, in the first instance, take pressure off waiting lists and, in the long-term, encourage creative and positive outcomes for people's lives.

FEARGHAL McKINNEY (SDLP)

MLA for South Belfast

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