Concerns over ''growing crisis'' facing health service and Lagan Valley Emergency Department
An urgent meeting of Lisburn and Castlereagh Health Working Group has been called to reconvene in a bid to avoid a winter breakdown in the health service in Lagan Valley.
Alliance councillor Sorcha Eastwood said she was concerned due to the “growing crisis” facing our health service and potential changes to the Lagan Valley Emergency Department.
The Castlereagh South elected representative said she has been inundated with messages following a weekend of “unprecedented levels of pressure” on hospitals across the district.
She said: “Whilst it is the responsibility of the Department of Health to deliver on health outcomes, I believe we all have a role to play in not only highlighting where problems exist, but also being constructive and engaging in conversations that not only honour the concerns of constituents, but seek ways to move the situation forward and to push for better service for them.”
Ms Eastwood said many people had tried to obtain an appointment or access to GPs within the last number of weeks only to be denied the service.
She added: “It is clear that our health and social care is under severe levels of pressure and I am dealing on a daily basis with families who can’t access GP services, or other families who are waiting on surgery or consultant led appointments.
“To that end, I called for a meeting of the Health Working Group last week to see what can be done through collaborative working between local government, health trusts, community and voluntary partners as well as statutory agencies and the health and social board to discuss the very real and urgent issue of disparity in accessing GPs and also now the potential for changes to the Lagan Valley emergency department.
“We all made a commitment to transforming the health service and that is very much needed, but we also need to ensure that changes are made in a constructive and informed way. This is an issue that I have been working on for some time and will be pushing for better delivery and access to healthcare services for Lagan Valley constituents."
Dr Alan Stout, British Medical Association NI, said there were “no short term solutions” to increase available appointments and called the DoH to recruit more GPs.
He said: “Unfortunately there are not many short term solutions to the increasing demand for appointments.
“Better public messaging about issues that don’t need GP appointments for would be useful. Your local pharmacy can provide a range of information, advice and over the counter medication to help with a wide range of everyday issues particularly the colds and sore throats that can crop up over winter.
“But realistically we need to train and recruit more GPs, indeed we need more doctors throughout the health service, but this takes a lot of time.
“We also need to extend the multi-disciplinary teams in general practice, where you are able to access support from other healthcare professionals at your GP surgery.
“Recent BMA surveys have made it clear that doctors are feeling undervalued and burnt out and there is a real risk that we will lose GPs and other doctors from the health service.
“For many of these older doctors there are complications around their pensions that the Department could address and that might prevent some from leaving.
The Department of Health and South Eastern Trust were contacted on the growing pressures facing the region but failed to reply to the request.