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Downe changes in community’s best interests

In response to the article entitled ‘Downpatrick demands equality of healthcare’ (Patrick Clarke, Dundrum, June 29), the Trust would like to confirm that the proposed changes to services in Downpatrick are part of our plans to provide safe, high-quality, and sustainable services for the entire population we serve.

It is not the Trust’s intention to “downgrade” services in Downpatrick.

On the contrary, we are now investing approximately 20% more, and employing more staff in the Downe Hospital than we did three years ago.

We have invested in new services such as fracture clinics, cataract surgery, and midwifery-led services.

The volume of activity has increased over the past three years. For example, there has been a 30% increase in day cases, and |a 10% increase in outpatient |appointments.

The Downe Hospital will soon provide bowel cancer screening and sexual health services for the entire population of the South Eastern Trust.

These services have not developed at the expense of other services.

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They reflect genuine growth and investment, and are a reflection of the important role the Downe Hospital has, and will continue to play in the delivery of services across the Trust.

We agree with equality of access and treatment. We are committed to providing local services for local people where possible.

However, it is inevitable that, to ensure safety, sustainability, and the delivery of specialist services, some services have to be centralised at particular locations. All of these factors have been considered in our proposals.

The proposed model for mental health services would enable us to develop a centre of excellence with greater specialisation, skilled staff, access to other services, and better outcomes for patients.

With regard to the urgent care model proposed for the Downe Hospital, we believe that it provides the best option to ensure 24/7 emergency care for the people of Downpatrick.

The consultation period runs to August 27 2010.

Further information is available on our website www.setrust.hscni.net

Hugh McCaughey

Chief Executive