Belfast Telegraph

Listen to doctor's cuts warning, trust urged

By Lisa Smyth

Health bosses must listen to a warning by a senior doctor that a major review of health and social care in Northern Ireland could lead to chaos, it has been claimed.

Dr Owen Finnegan, a consultant physician, said any attempt to cut acute services at the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine will lead to “significant health risk” and “significant deterioration in the delivery and standard of healthcare”.

The Northern Health Trust is currently considering how it will implement recommendations in the Transforming Your Care document which has said the number of acute hospitals in Northern Ireland should be cut.

It is thought Causeway Hospital could be in the firing line, which would affect its A&E, surgery and intensive care services.

Kieran McCarthy, a member of the Stormont health committee, said it is time those managing the health service begin to listen to people who actually deliver care.

“Here is a very senior doctor making these remarks so it is time that management sits up and pays attention,” he said.

“We have been told it is likely they will have to pay millions of pounds in total to external consultants before this process is over.

“I don’t understand why this is necessary when we have experts who work on the frontline and treat patients everyday who are more than capable of helping to make these important decisions.

“Sadly experience tells us that management aren’t keen on listening to the people working on the frontline.

“I just hope these external consultants aren’t being brought in as hatchet men to close hospitals and get rid of jobs.”

Yesterday, the Belfast Telegraph revealed that Dr Finnegan had written a hard-hitting letter to Northern Trust chief executive Sean Donaghy.

North Antrim MLA Jim Allister said Dr Finnegan’s comments are a “wake-up call” for Health Minister Edwin Poots.

“Dr Finnegan is absolutely right,” he said.

“The minister can't strip out acute services from Coleraine without creating chaos across the trust area, simply because neither Antrim, which is already in turmoil, or Altnagevlin could cope.

“I endorse entirely his view that the only safe way of delivering healthcare is to continue to have acute services in Coleraine.”

extracts from the letter

“I am writing to you as chief executive of the Northern Health & Social Care Trust to express my serious and growing concern about the future of acute hospital services in the trust's area.

“If acute services are withdrawn from the Causeway Hospital it is the opinion of every clinician that I have talked with in both the north and the south of the trust area that chaos will result.”

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