Downe & Lagan Valley A&E's have had their opening hours cut, a move that will lead to the eventual closure by default due to lack of patients being able to be treated at the units.
The removal of opening hours is a deliberate move by the South Eastern Health & Social Care Board, this move has sealed the units fate by default.
A recent report carried out by Save The Mid, shows the pressures that A&E's are under in Northern Ireland, the network hospitals for patients in the Down and Lagan Valley area are already suffering poor performances;
The Northern Health & Social Care Trust & Legacy Trusts done exactly the same with the Mid Ulster hospital. They first removed acute maternity services, acute surgery and finally the acute A&E in May 2010.
The methods used to shut Mid Ulster of acute services are exactly the same for Down & Lagan, the Trust must first make several smaller cuts that lead to less patients attending the hospitals, a move that will eventually lead to a full loss of acute services.
Like in Mid Ulster the Downe & Lagan Valley areas will become dependent on the Ambulance Service to fill the void left by a functional A&E. Quite simply put our ambulance service is not fit to plug this hole.
There is no clinical or political leadership strong enough now to ensure that the issues in acute care are fully debated and that services meet needs, unfortunately for the residents in Downe & Lagan Valley this will be the first of many cuts as services begin to collapse due to acute services being limited.
The Health Trust knows what they are doing, this have been done many times in Northern Ireland to shut down services in Dungannon, Omagh and Mid Ulster and they are getting good at it.