Cautious welcome for Daisy Hill u-turn

May 8, 2017

The announcement made last week by the Southern Health and Social Care Trust that Daisy Hill Hospital’s Emergency Department will remain a 24 hour service has received a cautious welcome, with the public urged to continue to support the campaign for a long term solution to the A&E recruitment crisis and wider health service provision issues at Daisy Hill.

The Trust announcement came following a regional summit held on Monday last, which was attended by staff from the Health and Social Care Board, the Public Health Agency, Belfast Trust, the Ambulance Service, the NI Medical and Dental Training Agency and the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority.

The summit was convened in response to the public outcry over Trust plans to temporarily close the local A&E Department at night due to a lack of senior medical staff.  The Department of Health said all parties now agreed that Daisy Hill’s Emergency Department should be retained because of the “clinical need, current size and projected growth of the population of Newry and Mourne.”

Following the meeting, Interim Chief Executive, Stephen McNally said the Trust had secured “concerted support from across the Health and Social Care system to develop a viable plan that will address the immediate pressures and look to stabilise the provision of emergency services at Daisy Hill.”

A Departmental spokesperson added that work would now gather pace on achieving the regional approach in a safe and sustainable way and said that the immediate pressure on emergency services in Daisy Hill was further evidence of the need for transformation in the provision of health and social care and the future planning of those services at a Northern Ireland level, in line with the Department’s “Delivering Together” document, launched last October.”

Seana Grant from the Save Our Emergency Department campaign group – who  spearheaded the recent public meeting in Newry on the issue – welcomed the outcome of the emergency summit with “reserved optimism.”

She said that whilst the group appreciated the efforts of the Trust to reach an interim solution, “the continued use of rhetoric that fails to commit to providing a permanent, long-term solution to this problem is disappointing.”

The campaign spokesperson called on the Trust to reverse its policy of “over investment in Craigavon,” as well as what she described as the “systematic downgrading of Daisy Hill.”

“The campaign to secure the services that the people of Newry, Mourne and South Down desperately need and deserve is only in its infancy. We are determined to ensure that the Trust invest in and support the staff of Daisy Hill to allow them to meet the needs of the community,” she added, vowing to work with the Southern Trust and the public “to ensure that Daisy Hill is supported and developed to provide the best possible care for all its patients.”

Unite the Union have also demanded that the Trust  follow-through on its commitment to a 24/7 Emergency Department at Daisy Hill.

Unite Regional Officer Kevin McAdam said the u-turn represented “a tremendous victory for the people power campaign” but he warned it was important that people “remain vigilant.”

“This is only round one. As yet, the resources necessary to underpin this decision have not been committed – it is vital that we maintain the pressure on the SHSCT board to ensure follow-through,” said Mr McAdam, confirming that Unite is seeking clarity directly from the chair of the board, Roberta Brownlee, on the future of the Fracture Unit at Daisy Hill as well as a full response to the allegations raised by Dr Donal Duffin regarding a disparity in pay rates for Junior Doctors in Daisy Hill compared to rates for working in Craigavon.

Martin McKeown, secretary of Unite’s Newry Community branch who played a lead role in the campaign, also extended a cautious welcome to the announcement claiming that “in the past the Trust has made similar declarations only to strip support services undermining provision in the long-run.”

“This success was delivered only through mass mobilisation and a well-organised campaign. Only such pressure could compel politicians to become active on the issue and force the Trust to do what was right,” said Mr McKeown who confirmed that Newry Unite community branch will be meeting with the Save Our Emergency Department Committee as well as other active Trade Unionists in the coming days to formulate ideas “in order to keep the pressure on so as to secure the long-term future of Daisy Hill.”

Newry and Armagh Sinn Fein MP Mickey Brady welcomed the news but said more work is needed to secure the future of the service in the long term.

“While the announcement is welcome, there is still a need for a longer term solution to the problems at Daisy Hill as there are still concerns over Fracture Clinics and Oorthopaedic Services so the campaign for Daisy Hill must continue,” he said.

“Sinn Fein will continue to engage with the Trust, staff, health authorities, unions and user groups to ensure first-class health service provision for the local community.”