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We need a health watchdog with sharper teeth

WHILE there does need to be a proactive way of promoting Antrim Area Hospital, saying that staff morale and all its ails are fixed by opening a new A&E department is irresponsible (News, August 8).

Let's look at the new A&E. Yes, a building that is twice the size of the old one, but is it really operationally twice the size? The public are being bluffed. Just as, when the new 24-bed ward opened this year, other wards closed.

Why? Could it be that, in spite of the claims of more nurses, that Antrim still doesn't have enough nurses to run at full capacity?

Looking at the performance for the second quarter (April-June) of 2013, it was actually worse than the same period in 2012.

Let's be realistic: emergency care is still in crisis. Northern Ireland needs a body like the Care Quality Commission, with the power to hold health providers – public and private – to account.

Currently, we only have the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), which is ineffective and poorly-funded. We also have the Patient and Client Council, which has, since inception, failed to represent patients and failed to use the powers that were given to it to spot-check hospitals – in spite of requests being made.

Is it possible that Northern Ireland has seen events similar to Mid-Staffs in England? It is almost sure. But who is holding these people to account? Who is investigating them?


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Belfast Telegraph