Belfast Telegraph

A&E probe is in best of health

By Les Allamby

Our human rights inquiry into emergency healthcare has the potential to improve the system for everyone here. And the feedback suggests the inquiry has struck a positive chord with the general public.

It is centred around participation by the public, and we are listening to patients, carers, the Health and Social Care Board, and the regional trusts. We have been across Northern Ireland hearing firsthand about the experiences of those who felt their treatment did not have the quality of care they expected. We also have heard from many patients who have been very happy with the level of care.

Patients and staff have told us this process has given them a voice, and this is something that will continue through the public hearings.

The inquiry has been welcomed widely, including by many key players responsible for developing policy.

It is about making things better for everyone. It is not about criticising staff or hospitals.

We are looking at human rights issues such as the right to respect for dignity and privacy and the right to accessible information supplied to patients.

Many of those giving evidence said these principles were implicit in their delivery of accident and emergency services. We want to see how these rights can be made explicit when delivering a whole service.

The right to health is a binding international legal obligation on the Northern Ireland Executive and public authorities charged with delivering services to people.

We will identify recommendations for an accessible emergency healthcare system in Northern Ireland that achieves human rights best practice. And we will issue a report to the Executive in April 2015.

Finally, we welcome that the newly appointed minister for health has given his commitment to be part of the process. He will attend our last inquiry hearing at the Stormont Hotel on October 20. Everyone is welcome to come along.

To find out more, visit

  • Les Allamby is chief commissioner for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

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