Belfast Telegraph

Embattled Poots urged to quit over A&E chaos in bitter Assembly row

By Lisa Smyth

Under-fire Health Minister Edwin Poots is guilty of the “absolute destruction of the health service” and should quit for failing to deliver on his promises, the Assembly has heard.

A Stormont debate on the crisis facing our A&Es on Monday descended into a bitter row with members exchanging vicious insults over the appalling state of our health service.

UUP MLA Basil McCrea launched a stinging attack on the performance of Mr Poots, who took up the post last May, and demanded his resignation.

He told the minister: “You are accountable. When heads roll, it is your head that should roll.”

It came a day after one of the most senior doctors in the UK gave a damning indictment of the health service in Northern Ireland. Dr Laurence Buckman, chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said waiting times for hospital appointments here are the worst in the UK.

He said he was disturbed that patient safety is compromised in Northern Ireland and his patients in England would never accept such delays.

While a number of A&Es have been struggling to cope with demand in recent months, the situation at the casualty unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital is at crisis point.

Last week Mr Poots told the Belfast Telegraph he would step in and take over the running of trusts that failed to address the difficulties facing our A&Es.

However, speaking in the Assembly chamber on Monday, Mr McCrea said: “You are the one who should stand up and be counted.

“You are responsible for the absolute destruction of the health service. You should be ashamed of yourself. Why is it this crisis has come on your watch? The minister is culpable. He is responsible. If heads are to roll, it should be his.”

Mr Poots reacted angrily after Alliance MLA Kieran McCarthy questioned his ability to run the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

“Let someone else take over the reins if he can’t do it,” Mr McCarthy said.

In his response to criticism from a number of his Assembly colleagues, a flustered Mr Poots branded Mr McCarthy “the village idiot”. He continued: “Jim Allister is surprised people die in A&E. I don’t know where he has been living for the past number of years. It is a fact of life we have pressures this year which are significant and we will deal with these issues.”

If you have any stories about the A&E crisis, contact Lisa Smyth on 028 9026 4283.


The A&E at Belfast City Hospital closed last year as there were not enough senior doctors in the Belfast Health & Social Care Trust to work in three casualty units. Health bosses, including Health Minister Edwin Poots, said the move would result in better patient care and denied it would lead to chaos. But the situation in the remaining A&Es deteriorated rapidly since January leading to concerns the closure of the casualty unit at Belfast City Hospital is to blame.

Belfast Telegraph


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