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Stroke Unit closure plans ‘autocratic and non-democratic’ – Francis Gallagher

Chairman of the Daisy Hill Action Group, Francis Gallagher, has accused the Department of Health of being “autocratic and non-democratic” in its decision to go ahead with the closure of the Stroke Unit in Daisy Hill in favour of centralising stroke services to Craigavon Area Hospital, despite opposition to the move being widely expressed at two recent public consultation meetings on the future provision of healthcare.

A Trust spokesperson confirmed that its decision to shut Daisy Hill Stroke Unit to create a specialist unit in Craigavon remains unchanged and that it was an “ongoing process.”

“The decision taken (following a 20 week public consultation) in November 2014 to create a single specialist stroke inpatient unit within the Trust was based on compelling clinical evidence (including the Northern Ireland Stroke Strategy; NICE guidelines; Royal College of Physicians National Clinical Guidelines) that patients are more likely to survive or recover from a stroke if treated in a specialist centre,”  said the spokesperson who added that the Health and Social Care Board and Public Health Agency will be conducting a consultation process in the coming months regarding modernising stroke services across Northern Ireland.

Commenting on the Department of Health’s stance, Mr Gallagher accused the department of carrying out a “box-ticking exercise” by hosting public consultations which were not taking the views of local people into consideration.

“It’s disappointing,” said the action group chairman.

“The public were told at the recent department of health consultation meetings that their opinions would be listened to but now many people are asking what was the point of the whole exercise?

“It comes across as a box-ticking exercise and as autocratic and non-democratic. It’s not taking the wishes and consent of local people into consideration, which it was supposed to, and it flies in the face of medical evidence to keep the Stroke Unit open.”

Mr Gallagher said the Daisy Hill Action Group are seeking a meeting with the Minister for Health before the upcoming Stormont elections.

“If we can obtain a meeting we will use the opportunity to ask the Minister to reverse the decision made by a previous Minister to close Daisy Hill’s Stroke Unit. We will present the clinical evidence to show why this should happen.”