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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Public consultation planned for general surgery 'reconfiguration’ across Northern Trust

Antrim Area Hospital

Antrim Area Hospital

A public consultation is due to take place over the future of general surgery in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust following a review by the Department of Health.

The Department of Health’s final report on a review of general surgery in Northern Ireland was published last month.

The report says health and social care trusts are to “implement the standards for emergency general surgery at pace and work with the Department to develop co-produced implementation plans”.

Speaking at a meeting of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust board at Antrim Hospital, on Thursday, chief executive Jennifer Welsh highlighted “challenges” surrounding the recruitment and retention of surgeons and that it has become “increasingly difficult” to maintain levels of staff at Antrim Hospital and Causeway Hospital, Coleraine.

The chief executive indicated these “cannot be met without some service level configuration on how we deliver general surgery across the two sites”. She went on to say a public consultation on proposals will take place “in due course”.

At a previous meeting, the chief executive told members:

“That review has implications for all HSC Trusts in terms of how a general surgery service is provided across Northern Ireland. For example, there are new Departmental standards for emergency and elective general surgery which cannot be fully met in the current configuration.”

The review sets out ten actions for the future of general surgery in Northern  Ireland. For example, each hospital providing emergency general surgery must have full access to theatres and critical care.

The emergency general surgery team must be split from the elective team and the teams must be sufficient in size.

With regard to emergency surgical care, each site must have the required number of surgeons with the required training and expertise to ensure best outcomes at all times.

Subject to funding, each Trust must be a member of National Emergency Laparotomy Audit, and must audit practice against activity, return to theatre, length of stay, readmission rates and patient experience.

In an update on actions in the Review of General Surgery’, the final report notes:

“The review recognised that the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Ulster Hospital largely met the standards for Emergency General Surgery which remains the case.

“The review also recognised that a group of hospitals – Altnagelvin Hospital and Craigavon and Antrim Area Hospitals – could meet the standards by putting processes or resources in place. With the support of the Department and the General Surgery Network, the standards are now largely in place in the Trusts. That support will continue as the Trusts continue to embed the standards.

“The Review recognised a third group – Daisy Hill, Causeway and South WestAcute (SWAH) Hospitals – as needing more fundamental change to how services were currently being delivered, including to service configuration and cross-organisational working to meet the standards.

“In relation to Causeway, the Northern Trust is continuing to develop plans for the reconfiguration of general surgical services across its hospital sites in the context of the Review of General Surgery.”

Then Health Minister Robin Swann commented:

“The aim of the Review was to create safe, sustainable models for elective and emergency general surgery across Northern Ireland.”


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