From Monday 28th February, all emergency surgical patients requiring inpatient assessment in the Southern Trust will be admitted to Craigavon Area Hospital until a full consultation on a sustainable future service model has been completed with outcomes agreed.
There will be no change to the Emergency Department at Daisy Hill which will continue to operate as usual on a 24/7 basis.
Despite repeated recruitment advertisements, from the end of February, Daisy Hill will have one permanent Consultant General Surgeon out of six funded posts and Craigavon will have eight out of nine.
The consolidation of emergency surgery to one site will allow the team to maintain the safety of the service for all Southern Trust patients whilst a longer term best-practice model is developed to improve both emergency and elective general surgery.
In response to ongoing difficulties in recruiting and retaining consultant surgeons and having been shared with the Daisy Hill Pathfinder Group, the proposal was formally agreed at the January Trust Board today(Thursday 27th).
Outlining the plans to Trust Board members, Director of Acute Services, Melanie McClements said: “Recruitment of general surgical consultant posts has been an ongoing challenge across Northern Ireland and work has been progressing locally and regionally to develop more sustainable emergency and elective surgical services.
“However, recent changes to our workforce have presented a very immediate and major risk for the safety of our service in the Southern Trust. We cannot maintain a fully responsive emergency surgical service with one permanent surgeon at Daisy Hill. With staffing now so stretched across both sites, the safest way of achieving a more equitable service and the best possible outcome for patients is to have all emergency surgical patients admitted to Craigavon.”
Commenting on longer term plans, Melanie continued: “While work continues to develop and enhance our surgical model, we are clear on our immediate priorities for surgery across the Southern Trust.
“We want to create a secure service with rapid access to expert assessment and care, ensuring the best outcomes for all patients.
“We want to create a surgical service that is attractive to surgeons, giving them the opportunity to develop their specialist skills and experience through the right balance of elective and emergency work.
“And we need to fully utilise all of our theatre capacity across Daisy Hill, Craigavon and South Tyrone to undertake more elective procedures to benefit the growing numbers of patients on our waiting lists.
“I would like to pay tribute to our surgical team for their continued commitment despite these mounting pressures and thank staff at both Daisy Hill and Craigavon for their flexibility in supporting these temporary arrangements.”
She added: “I want to assure local people that Daisy Hill remains an essential part of the Southern Trust hospital network. It has a very busy Emergency Department and a wide range of very vibrant specialities. We aim to maintain the acute status of Daisy Hill through this process, whilst securing and enhancing its elective surgical capacity.
“We ask for public support and understanding as we continue to work through the challenges to develop a solution that meets the future needs of our population.”
A formal project structure is now being established to develop longer term proposals for public consultation on elective and general surgery across the Southern Trust.