Belfast Telegraph

Working together on health

By Jim Wells

I recently visited all the local health trusts to see the great work taking place to help manage the continuing pressures in our hospitals, especially in the emergency departments (EDs) ahead of the busiest time of the year.

The unscheduled care task group was set up to develop plans for all patients to be assessed, treated and either admitted or discharged within 12 hours. This has included improvement work on the design and implementation of more effective patient pathways through a whole system approach, including GPs, Ambulance Service, community care teams and staff and processes within acute hospitals.

I allocated £5m in additional funding to address winter pressures. This money will be used in a variety of ways to improve patient flow from EDs and expand capacity, as required, over the winter period, providing additional ED consultants, medical admissions unit physicians, allied health professionals and pharmacy staff, hospital ambulance liaison officers, and to implement new models of care.

Avoiding unnecessary admissions, whether it's the old or young, streaming patients into categories and effectively managing patient flow through EDs will reduce pressures on the system. Trusts are exploring alternative ways to manage ED patients through changes in triage and streaming.

However, we need to play our part in easing pressures. Minor illnesses such as a cold or sore throat can often be managed at home. Advice or guidance is available from your local pharmacist or nurses in minor injuries units can help, or your family GP.

The Choose Well campaign aims to help people gain a better understanding of the range of services available, from self-care at one end, to 999 and EDs at the other. It is about informing and empowering people to make the right decisions.

Huge progress has been made on eliminating 12-hour waits and I want to see that continue. Working together, supporting our families, looking after our neighbours, and choosing and using services wisely will ensure those in need receive the services they require.

Jim Wells is the DUP Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety

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