Braid Valley Training Centre 1 February, 11.00 am
Hugh McCloy and three members of the Save the Mid group, Sean Donaghy, CEO, NHSCT. In attendance Don Heaney, NHSCT
Group members stated that A&E at Antrim could not cope in the present circumstances and called for a return of A&E capability at Mid Ulster Hospital. Mr Donaghy reaffirmed the Trust position that this could not happen. Whilst accepting there were planning issues that impacted on the closures, decisions taken around A&E services at Mid Ulster and Whiteabbey were unavoidable in the interests of patient safety.
The issue of safety at Antrim currently was questioned. Mr Donaghy made the distinction between waiting for treatment and compromising safety. Antrim was not unique in its problems; he accepted, however, that improvement was needed. He added that the situation at Antrim continued to improve.
Mr McCloy advised that the group had recently carried out a review of A&E patients at Antrim and said the responses were “absolutely disgraceful”. He added that the “stuff hitting the media was the tip of the iceberg”. Mr Donaghy did not accept these conclusions, citing the group’s position as a lobbyist. Mr McCloy acknowledged this and advised that the findings had been forwarded to the HSC Board as part of the Compton review.
Mr Donaghy went on to say that the Trust had plans in place and that he expected to see significant improvements by March this year. He accepted the point raised by Mr McCloy that this winter had been better than last year, but problems still persisted. Mr Donaghy responded that injuries due to weather were not the problem, rather there were higher numbers of older people and those with respiratory problems. He added that the core issue for A&E related to the numbers needing admission.
Mr Donaghy referred to the lack of space and the unsuitability of the area the unit had expanded in to over the years.
Mr McCloy questioned whether a “new A&E could handle things any better” in the light of future plans outlined in the Compton report. Mr Donaghy said he felt the report gave a good overview of the changes required but importantly it highlighted the need to look to local health economies to devise a service model, suitable to local need, subject to consultation.
Mr McCloy raised the issue of the future of the Mid Ulster hospital discussed at last Trust Board. He said it was clear that the Trust planned to rent space on the site to voluntary [sic] groups such as Citizens Advice Bureau and the Alzheimer’s Society. Mr Donaghy assured that the priority was to re-locate and centralise clinical teams working in the Magherafelt/ Cookstown area to Thomson House. He added that further renting additional space to groups working in the broader health and well-being arena would be considered appropriate.
Mr McCloy did not feel that was made clear and that people were confused; the impression had been given that space would be provided rent-free for these groups. Mr Donaghy assured that public resources could not be provided free. He said he would seek feedback from the meeting to help clear up any confusion. Concern was also raised that at the meeting reference was made to services for Magherafelt and did not include Cookstown or other towns in the area. Mr Donaghy assured that the base chosen for services did not prescribe the area served.
Mr McCloy referred to high numbers of people waiting more than 24 weeks for services provided at Mid Ulster. Mr Donaghy said that the Trust’s performance in planned care was equivalent to other trusts, and that the N Ireland waiting position had improved over time. There were acknowledged shortfalls in ENT and Dermatology capacity, with a short-term for improvement, and a longer term plan for investment in NHSCT services by the HSCB to increase capacity.
Mr McCloy raised the issue of what he felt to be shortcomings in the Deloitte report into emergency care published last year. He said there was a need for an extension to the minor injuries and out-of-hours services. Mr Donaghy pointed out that the report was commissioned by the Board and that he was not in a position to challenge it. He referred Mr McCloy to the HSC Board with any concerns.
Mr McCloy said he wished to take away something from the meeting regarding extending minor injuries hours of service and providing a service for under-5s. Mr Donaghy cautioned about challenging paediatric clinical advice. He also said that as part of future plans the Trust would envisage an expansion of GP out-of-hours to the Mid Ulster site. The Local Commissioning Group (LCG) would have a major input to the planning and development of future services and the Save the Mid group should refer to them.
Mr McCloy said that reducing services at Causeway Hospital would also have a bearing on services available to the mid Ulster area. Mr Donaghy acknowledged that there were specific issues