Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Daisy Hill ED Pathfinder Project welcomed

A project initiating a consultation and engagement process with medical professionals, stakeholders and the local community to develop proposals for the delivery of sustainable acute and emergency care in the Newry and Mourne area has been welcomed by local political representatives and activist groups.   

The details of the Pathfinder Project were approved at a meeting of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust Board on Thursday last.

A final report on the outcome of the project is due in November, with implementation of the recommendations expected to make significant progress in the following 15 – 18 months.

The Daisy Hill Emergency Department Pathfinder Group will oversee the project, chaired by Dr Anne-Marie Telford, an experienced public health doctor who has worked within the Southern area for over 20 years and has been involved with major regional and local improvement projects.

“Full and inclusive community participation will be fundamental to the success of the project, and the input of service users and carers through co-production will be a major part of the process,” said Dr Telford,

“There will be community members on the Pathfinder Group and the various work streams that will support the project. This is a ground-breaking process for Northern Ireland, and one that reflects the commitment of both the Department of Health and the Trust to maintaining access to emergency health care for people living in the Newry and Mourne area.”

The Group will also have staff side representation, nursing, medical and ambulance staff and public health experts, all tasked with developing proposals for sustainable acute and emergency care that reflects the needs of the Newry and Mourne community.

“This is an opportunity to not only secure services for the Newry and Mourne area, but also to  provide learning opportunities to inform the provision of acute and emergency care elsewhere in Northern Ireland, “ concluded Dr Telford.

Dr Anne-Marie Telford

The process for bringing together community interest groups will start immediately, and will be taken forward over the next few weeks, with the first full meeting of the Pathfinder Group taking place this month.

The project has been welcomed by the Save Our Emergency Department group, who have described the development as “a positive indication the recognition of how absolutely vital the service is to the community.”  A group spokesperson said the launch of the Pathfinder Project is all the more significant, given the publication of recent illustrating that Daisy Hill is the fastest growing ED in terms of attendance numbers in Northern Ireland.

“The Trust appear to be listening to the seismic public outcry regarding any temporary night time closure of the ED by seeking to engage directly with the community and setting up the Daisy Hill Hospital Pathfinder Group,” said the Save Our ED Committee member.

“There is a vast amount of expertise and huge commitment to this issue by the people of the Newry, Mourne and south Armagh area. We hope that by drawing on this valuable resource, the Trust will be able to find creative and practical solutions to ensure a permanent solution is found.”

The group hope to participate in the work streams outlined and are urging the public to engage positively with the Pathfinder Project.

“We hope that the Pathfinder Project’s engagement of experts from all five of the Health and Social Care Trusts, other bodies and the Permanent Secretary for Health, will mean that any solutions found will also be able to applied to the other hospitals in Northern Ireland that also currently face the same issues as Daisy Hill.

“It is only through communication and proactive management by all of these agencies that the staffing issues faced by every ED will be solved. This will allow for acute health care to be provided fairly, equally and safely to everyone across the province,” concluded the spokesperson.

Newry, Mourne & Down Council Chairperson Roisin Mulgrew and Mickey Brady MP have also welcomed the approval of the groundbreaking initiative which they say “will alleviate some of the concerns held in the local community about the future of their local hospital and its emergency services.”

Save Daisy Hill Committee members who are in favours with the Pathfinder.

“Consultation as part of this project must be extensive and involve huge sections of our community, from people in all walks of life. There is a robust strength of feeling on the ground that must be made clear to the Trust,” said Councillor Mulgrew, who also made clear that her priority campaign as Council Chairperson in the coming year will focus on bringing the community together to speak cohesively on their concerns regarding the future of Daisy Hill:

“Since my election as Chairperson of Council on 1st June, I have contacted local groups and stakeholders in an effort to bring them together in a forum that will share concerns and ideas surrounding Daisy Hill Emergency Department. I will then make these concerns known to the Trust,” she added.

MP for Newry & Armagh, Mickey Brady was present at the meeting of the Trust and took the opportunity to voice support for the project, while urging the Trust to go further:

“This is an opportunity for the Trust not only to maintain services at Daisy Hill, but also expand and enhance those available to the local community,” said Mr Brady.

“Daisy Hill Hospital has for some time now suffered dangerously low consultancy staffing levels, has relieved too heavily on locums, and training supervision has been inadequate. This will have a knock on effect to other sections of the hospital as resources are increasingly strained.

“This Pathfinder Project is an opportunity for the Trust to embrace a clean slate and provide the necessary resources to a hospital and Emergency Department that is increasingly unfit for purpose.”