GP issues call for fewer hospitals
The number of acute hospitals in Northern Ireland should be halved to ensure better services for patients, a leading doctor has said.
Up to six specialist centres for potentially life-threatening conditions such as stroke should be created, with other hospitals providing a network of support services and rehabilitation, said Dr Brian Dunn from the British Medical Association (BMA) in Northern Ireland.
He added that some areas with limited demand, like child cardiology, could be removed from Northern Ireland entirely.
The NHS faces making savings amid tightened budgets across the public sector.
Larne GP Dr Dunn said: "It is about having less hospitals. If we were an English region we would have two. In Northern Ireland we need four, five or six hospitals, providing good access to them."
He said smaller hospitals did not have enough patients to support the number of junior doctors and consultants required.
Dr Dunn added: "People who are seriously ill ... will have to travel slightly longer distances, they will get better care but they won't be there for long."
Specialist hospitals could include a regional trauma centre, which would treat people like those involved in serious assaults or road accidents.
Dr Dunn, chairman of the GP committee of the BMA in Northern Ireland, said: "I don't want to deprive communities, there is a certain loss of pride when your local hospital closes.
"The choice is, do you want modern medicine, do you want medicine where you will live longer and you will be fitter? The minister (Edwin Poots) has to make those choices. As doctors, if he makes those choices, we will back him in that. I hope the local politicians will back him in that as well."