Health Minister should halt cuts

30 11 2014


Protest Background 2

SDLP Health Spokesperson Fearghal McKinney has called on the Health Minister to halt the proposed cuts in response to the Chancellor’s announcement of a decision to spend an extra £2 billion on the UK health service.

The South Belfast MLA has called for a halt on proposed cuts this year and next year in the wake of the announcement that the Chancellor will put an extra £2 billion into front-line health services across the UK.
Mr McKinney said:
“This announcement of £2 billion extra funding for the UK Health service could result in the Northern Ireland Health Service receiving up to an extra £60 million.
“We all know of the pressures on the Northern Ireland Health Service is under and if there is any chance of more money, it should be welcomed.
“It is hoped that this extra funding will ease the growing pressures on front-line staff in the health service.
“Mr Wells should halt the cuts planned for this year and next year following this announcement and should rethink the budget once it has been confirmed how much the DHSSPS will receive from this funding.
“I plan to raise this issue as an Urgent Oral Question in the Assembly tomorrow. Patients should not have this uncertainty hanging over them.”

Cunningham brands Dalriada consultation ‘a fudge’

25 11 2014


SDLP Councillor and Chairman of Moyle Council Dónal Cunningham has reacted angrily to the announcement of an eight week consultation into the temporary closure of Dalriada Hospital

Cllr Cunningham branded the decision a wasted opportunity and a fudge. He said:

 “I am furious at this decision. It is absolutely ludicrous that a consultation is to be carried out during a period of closure. Health Minister Jim Wells needed to use today’s Assembly debate as his opportunity to reverse the illogical Trust proposal and to maintain current services at Dalriada Hospital in Ballycastle.

 “We have presented ample evidence of how Dalriada Hospital contributes to the efficiency of the Acute Hospital sector and how it provides a major service to MS patients.

 “I am very disappointed by this decision at a time when the Minister needed to be standing up to the management of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

Eight week reprieve for Dalriada not good enough

25 11 2014


SDLP Health Spokesperson Fearghal McKinney MLA has said that the Health Minister’s announcement of a delay to the closure of Dalriada hospital while a consultation is carried out is not good enough.

 Chairman of Moyle Council Dónal Cunningham added that the decision has angered the local community and represents a total fudge.

 He said:

 “It will be clear for everyone to see that the Health Minister’s announcement of an eight week delay to the closure of Dalriada hospital while a consultation takes place is nothing more than a tokenistic attempt to manage the huge public backlash.

 “The Minister has made it clear that there will be no new admissions during this period. That means that Dalriada is still on the wind down. The campaigners- doctors, nurses, patients and carers will see this for exactly what it is. It is a stay of execution rather than any sincere attempt to reverse the decision.

 SDLP Chairman of Moyle Council Dónal Cunningham said:

 “I am furious at this decision. It is absolutely ludicrous that a consultation is to be carried out during a period of closure. Health Minister Jim Wells needed to use today’s Assembly debate as his opportunity to reverse the illogical Trust proposal and to maintain current services at Dalriada Hospital in Ballycastle.

 “We have presented ample evidence of how Dalriada Hospital contributes to the efficiency of the Acute Hospital sector and how it provides a major service to MS patients.

“I am very disappointed by this decision at a time when the Minister needed to be standing up to the management of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.”

‘United Community Prayer’ for the future of Dalriada Hospital

22 11 2014


Ballycastle Church Action invites you to the Sheskburn Centre for a ‘United Community Prayer’ for the future of Dalriada Hospital from 6.30pm to 7.00pm on Monday 24 November. Please come in big numbers.

McKinney tells Health Minister to take his own advice

19 11 2014

healthcareSDLP Health Spokesperson Fearghal McKinney MLA, has told the Health Minister to take his own advice. Following the Minister’s announcement on Trust waiting times, Mr McKinney said:

 “It is our belief that the Belfast Trust is being unduly impacted because of the actions of other Trusts. This is something the SDLP flagged up when cuts were made earlier in the year.

“In attempting to deal with waiting times relating to unscheduled care, the RQIA identified, ‘the need for better regional co-ordination, better information sharing between Trusts, better planning across and between Trusts and a clear strategic vision set by the Minister’.

“This approach is exactly what should apply in relation to the cutbacks that the Minister is backing right now.  In fact the approach should apply to all Health provision in the North as some of these latest cuts are going to impact not just locally but elsewhere.

“Trusts are acting completely contrary to the approach set out by the RQIA and it is our belief that some of those cutbacks, such as Dalriada, will stack up higher costs for other Trusts and impact on the budget overall.

“The Minister should take his own advice and put in place not only a taskforce looking at coordination, planning, and information sharing for unscheduled care, but for the Health Service as a whole. That would show vision.”


15 11 2014


Dal 3SDLP health spokesperson Fearghal McKinney has said the Health Minster needs to explain to the people affected by closures at Dalriada Hospital and elsewhere just who is in charge at the department.

 Mr McKinney, speaking at the SDLP’s Annual Conference 2014, said:

 “The people of Ballycastle aren’t one bit impressed that the Health Minister Jim Wells is saying that he’s worried about the implications to Dalriada. He should be because his words show that he’s not in charge.

 “His Parliamentary Assistant is vowing to the people of Bangor that he’ll find the money to keep its minor injury unit open. But who is in charge? The minister is worried about Dalriada and his assistant is worried about Bangor. I believe the civil servants are in charge and Minister Wells is discovering that he’s nothing more than a bird in a gilded cage when it comes to decision making.

“The public are worried over both decisions. We also know that there is not a plan in place for the future of both, just more cuts. Let the minister announce now that he’ll stop the cuts until there is a proper review.

“Let the minister prove that if he is cutting anything, it will be consistent with a long-term plan to improve our Health Service and return proper services to the community. To do that, the minister needs to clarify just who is in charge at the Department of Health.”

Dalriada Hospital sacrificed as a result of the costs of Agency/Bank workers in Causeway Hospital

12 11 2014

Delivering Financial Balance  - Secuting Safe Services

Reacting to a Northern Health and Social Care Trust document entitled ‘Delivering Financial Balance – Securing Safe Services’ Ballycastle SDLP Councillor and Chairman of Moyle Council Dónal Cunningham has claimed that the temporary closure of the MS Respite Care beds and 20 intermediate care beds at Dalriada Hospital is being proposed to reduce costs of Agency/Bank staff at the acute Causeway Hospital.

 In a section of the document dated October 2014 the Northern Health and Social Care Trust reveal that they hope to save £555k through the temporary closure of Dalriada Hospital, but go on to say that this saving will only be achieved through the redeployment of Dalriada staff to bolster the substantive staff and reduce the spend on Agency staff at the Causeway Acute Hospital.

 Councillor Cunningham continued “Dalriada hospital is the ideal template for the ‘Transforming Your Care’ objective of intermediate care provision, with bed occupancy of over 92% Dalriada Hospital provides support for rehabilitation and reablement for patients after an operation or illness.”

 “Dalriada and it’s services should not be the victim of a staff recruitment crisis at the Causeway acute Hospital, I am calling on the Health minister to overturn the decision to temporarily close Dalriada Hospital and to put the Northern Trust officials to work on the source of the problem which is the overuse of Agency staff at the Causeway acute hospital.”

Health Minister must prove he is in charge

9 11 2014

 Cover Photo

SDLP Health Spokesperson Fearghal McKinney MLA is calling on the Health Minister to call a halt to Health Trust cutback decisions to allow for a proper review of the plans.

Some of the Trusts ‘contingency’ plans have been greeted with horror by patients and the public in places like Armagh, Bangor, Downpatrick and Ballycastle and the Health Minister himself has questioned a plan for cutbacks at Dalriada Hospital.

“As well as reflecting concern about Dalriada, the Health Minister has regularly repeated that he is relatively new to his position and it is also clear from evidence to the Health Committee from Departmental officials that Trusts had been working on their plans for some time and certainly before Mr Wells took up his post.

“It is our view that the plans are not about strategic health provision but are about relieving pressure on individual Trusts financial bottom lines.  They are certainly not in the context of the Transforming Your Care strategic plan for moving more of our services into the community. In fact some will have the opposite effect.

“Moves such as cutting back on minor injuries clinics and respite provision are, in the view of the SDLP, certainly not consistent with that plan and may even put further pressure on our hospital and accident and emergency units.

“There is a real need to reassure the public that any cutbacks will have as little impact on patients and the public as possible.  The Minister has an opportunity to do that – prove that it is he who is in charge and not the Trusts – and call a halt to the cuts to allow a strategic review.

“To do nothing and allow the cutbacks to proceed will show it is civil servants who are in charge not the Health Minister.”

#SaveTheDal – Letter to the Minister

9 11 2014


Copy of letter from local GPs to Health Minister:Mr Jim Wells 
The Minister
Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety
Information Office
C5.20 Castle Buildings
Stormont Buildings
BT4 3SQDear Mr Wells,

As you are aware Dr Tony Stevens, Chief Executive of NHSCT announced on Thursday 30th November 2014, the “temporary” closure of Dalriada Hospital in Ballycastle in its entirety at the end of November 2014.

Dalriada Hospital has provided outstanding medical care to the people of Ballycastle and the surrounding areas for decades.

This decision to close Dalriada hospital betrays the substance of Transforming Your Care which promotes intermediate care, with medical care being provided to patients either in their own homes or in intermediate care units as close as possible to their homes.

As GPs who work in Dalriada Hospital we wish to voice our grave concerns about the proposed closure of Dalriada Hospital. Although described as a “temporary” closure, Dr Tony Stevens CEO was unable to give any assurance that this would be the case, merely advising that there would be consultation about the provision of intermediate care throughout the Northern Trust area after the end of this financial year. He also stated that as this was “temporary” he was under no obligation to carry out any consultation.

The hospital encompasses 20 intermediate care beds and 12 regional Multiple sclerosis respite beds. Not only do we the GPs accept patients on a step-down basis from the acute hospital setting (e.g. for rehabilitation following orthopaedic surgery for fractured hips) we also provide a step-up service.

The step-up service allows us to directly admit a patient from home, including Rathlin islanders to Dalriada Hospital who would otherwise require attendance at A+E and admission into an acute hospital bed. As you are aware the cost of a bed day in Dalriada Hospital is a fraction of the cost of a bed day in the acute hospital setting such as Causeway or Antrim Area Hospital.

The doctors also accept and provide medical cover for patients who have been assessed in A+E or admitted to the medical assessment unit and require further short-term clinical care and rehabilitation with the assistance of the multidisciplinary team.

Unfortunately the number of patients requiring complex palliative care treatment has escalated in the past years and Dalriada hospital has highly skilled clinical staff members who are fully dedicated and competent to provide this essential service to patients who otherwise their care could only be provided in the acute hospital setting.

Dalriada hospital also provides a regional respite service for patients with Multiple Sclerosis who have complex medical and nursing needs. During their respite stay the service users avail.

The many services on site including dentistry, podiatry, physiotherapy and occupational therapy. This prevents fragmented care at home. Sadly many of these patients are young. A nursing home environment would be totally unsuitable to their needs. This has been continually voiced by the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
The clinical care provided by the specialist nurses in Dalriada Hospital provides not only for the physical complexities, but also the psychological and social needs of the sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis and their families. This is unique and has been emphasised by the service users and reiterated in the media.

The disbandment of the hospital and these specialist skilled staff will have enormous clinical impact on the provision of acute hospital care and would appear to make no economic sense.

As GPs we are fearful of the impact this proposed major cutback in local healthcare provision will have on the patients in our practices populations. North Antrim and Rathlin Island have become popular retirement areas and hence we have a large proportion of frail elderly patients. In the winter months particularly, many of these patients unfortunately succumb to respiratory infections and fractures due to falls. The only option for these patients will be to attend A+E with long trolley waits and prolonged stay in acute hospital beds. These patients have been treated and have had rehabilitation (including after orthopaedic surgery) up to the present time in Dalriada hospital.

The Northern Trust representatives have argued that they have too many intermediate care beds. Unfortunately they have been disingenuous in their description of intermediate care beds. At present the only intermediate care facilities in the NHSCT area which are staffed by trained nurses are:
• Dalriada Hospital with 20 intermediate care beds. 
• Robinson Hospital in Ballymoney with 21 intermediate care beds 
• Inver in Larne with 16 intermediate care beds 
• Mid Ulster hospital in Magherafelt which has 3 assessment beds.

All the other units which the trust has called intermediate care beds are staffed by care assistants with no trained nurses. Patients can only be admitted to these care assistant staffed units if;
• they can be cared for with the assistance of one person, 
• if they do not have dementia and 
• If they do not have medical complications requiring skilled nursing care.

These care assistant staffed units are in Ballymoney, Ballymena, Antrim, Larne, Whiteabbey and Cookstown. None of these are within easy access of Ballycastle and the Glens.

1. If this proposed closure is enforced what is going to happen to the patients in this area of North Antrim and Rathlin Island?
2. Where are our patients with complex palliative care needs going to be admitted?
3. Can you give assurances that our frail elderly patients will not spend prolonged undignified days on A+E trolleys?
4. Where will the clients with Multiple Sclerosis avail of respite care?

The haste with which this announcement was made has caused enormous anxiety to the people of Ballycastle, Rathlin Island and the Glens. Unfortunately without the answers to the questions we pose we have been unable to allay these fears and anxieties. We would invite you to reply urgently to our questions so that we can assure our patients of a safe and high standard of medical provision.

We would also invite you to come to Dalriada hospital to see for yourself the excellent facilities which it provides, a service which actually saves the Health service money. You will be assured of a very warm welcome.
Yours sincerely,
Dr Mary McLister
Dr Martin O’Kane
Dr Bernie Hegarty
Dr Fergal Hasson
Dr Farah Nawaz
Dr Adrian Sterne
Dr Ian Hadden
Dr Stephen McDonnell
In support of: Dr Dermot Grant, Dr John McSparran and Dr Gillian Elder, Glens of Antrim Medical Centre
Mr Tony Stevens Chief Executive
Cllr Donal Cunningham
Cllr Joan Baird
Cllr Cara McShane
Ian Paisley MP
Robin Swann MLA
Jim Allister MLA
Daithi McKay MLA
Mervyn Storey MLA
Northern Local Commissioning Group

Public meeting to support campaign to keep Dalriada Hospital open arranged for Tuesday 18 November at 7pm in Dunluce School, Bushmills.

Dalriada Hospital, Ballycastle, Cuts – Action and Reaction

Coleraine Times slideshow of Public Meeting [Photos by Kevin McAuley; Slideshow by Una Culkin]

UTV coverage of white-line protest

Ministerial office email address for submission of views: