The Daisy Hill Pathfinder Group has acknowledged for some time now that serious problems exist recruiting General Surgeons all across these islands. This is not a local problem but a UK &Ireland problem. The need for urgent action in relation to Emergency Surgical capacity at Daisy Hill has been precipitated by the resignation of a consultant surgeon and the inability to recruit a replacement. Therefore, from 28th February there will be one full-time and two locum surgeons filling the six full-time consultant roles at Daisy Hill. It is the opinion of the surgical team, supported by management, that given the shortfall in the numbers of surgeons, Emergency Surgery can only be safely delivered on one site, Craigavon Hospital, from that date.
Public consultation on a longer-term solution will follow after the May elections.
The Southern Health & Social Care Trust recently presented its plan for Emergency Surgery at its most recent Pathfinder and Trust Board meetings. The plan has been drawn up by and presented by the surgeons providing the service across both hospital sites.
The agreed interim plan will entail the transfer of all emergency surgical cases, primarily relating to abdominal issues, to Craigavon Hospital for surgery. An on-call consultant will provide cover at Daisy Hill for general surgical elective patients, in-theatre emergencies to Obstetrics and Gynaecology and advice for medical inpatients and paediatric wards. A rotational model involving surgeons will exist across both sites providing 24/7 consultant cover for both hospitals. Where it is deemed unsafe to transfer a patient requiring emergency surgery from Daisy Hill, arrangements will be made to accommodate surgery on site.
It is extremely important to point out that Emergency Surgery is not provided by the Emergency Department but by the Surgical Department. We are insistent that Daisy Hill’s ED must retain its Type 1 status and remain operational 24/7 365 days of the year and we have received absolute assurances from both Trust Board and the Surgical team that the ED is totally secure. Over the last five years our ED service has expanded significantly, this process will continue. Daisy Hill’s acute status will remain unaffected.
With the move of Emergency Surgery to Craigavon Hospital, currently six cases a day, there is an opportunity for a major upgrade to elective surgical services on the Daisy Hill site. We see this as real opportunity to address some of the current challenges being faced across our communities in relation to waiting times. As an elective surgical hub, we believe Daisy Hill will be much better placed to attract and retain staff at all levels and to develop its capacity as a training hospital.
We also believe that the time is right to pursue the idea of Daisy Hill and Newry becoming the centre for a new and much needed cross border health initiative that would continue to build and develop services, providing for a wider constituency of communities across Down, Armagh, Louth and Monaghan.
We are totally confident that Daisy Hill Hospital will continue to develop and thrive as an acute hospital providing continuing excellence in care for the communities it serves.