Belfast Telegraph

Health summit to tackle A&E pressures and finding new model of care for Northern Ireland

Richard Pengelly
Richard Pengelly

An emergency health care summit has been called to tackle the pressures facing Northern Ireland's emergency care system and find a new model of care.

A public consultation on a proposed new regional model of care for the province as a whole will be launched later this year.

The summit and public consultation are key stages in the review of urgent and emergency care announced by the Department of Health in November 2018. As well as A&E care it will consider out of hours provision and facilities in other parts of the UK and Ireland.

The review is being led by John Maxwell, emergency department consultant at the Royal Victoria and Mater Hospitals with the summit planned for June.

The Bengoa Report in 21016 on health care transformation identified urgent and emergency care as one of the specialties “in most need of reform”.

Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said: “It is very clear we need a new model of care. In particular, we need to determine the best way to meet the needs of the rising number of older people in our population.

“With demand for care continuing to rise, our hospital emergency departments remain under intense pressure.

“Unless we make changes, we will increasingly be unable to cope with the changing levels of need in our community.”

The summit will bring together clinicians, patient voices and representatives from organisations across the Health and Social Care (HSC) system.

Dr Maxwell said: “Our emergency departments continue to face serious pressures, as my colleagues across the system can testify. The level of pressure usually experienced at winter is now lasting throughout the year, and is showing no signs of letting up.

“Experience elsewhere would indicate that the answer is not to simply build bigger units, add more beds and keep trying to recruit more staff. Many people who currently attend emergency departments do not have life-threatening emergency care needs, and could be dealt with more effectively in different settings, but there is currently nowhere else for them to turn.

“We need fundamental reform – including developing alternative routes to treatment, care and admission for our older citizens.

“This is not about simply looking at the future of individual hospital sites, but at how the system works as a whole. That includes assessing how well defined the roles of emergency departments currently are and examining the potential for more urgent treatment centres, similar to the facility at Omagh Hospital.”

The review was launched following a Population Health Needs Assessment. It highlighted that demographic change is a major factor behind growing demand for urgent and emergency care, with pressures due to intensify significantly in coming years.

For example, during the 10 years between 2016 and 2026, the N Ireland population is projected to grow by a further 77,600. Of this increase, the rise in the population aged 65 and over is projected to be 74,500.

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