Minister poised to approve 24 hours A&E access at Lagan Valley

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THE campaign to restore 24 hour emergency cover at the Lagan Valley has ended in victory with Health Minister Edwin Poots poised to approve plans by the SE Health Trust which will allow people to go to the hospital at any time of the night or day.

The Minister has welcomed proposals agreed by the Trust Board on Wednesday to provide extended opening hours less than a year after the service was dramatically cut because of a shortage of junior doctors.

The new scheme will see the opening hours at the emergency department extended and an enhanced GP out of hours service provided at the site. Mr Poots said he is keen to give the go ahead as soon as possible, It is estimated it will cover 97% of the patients who would have been seen in the old system with the less serious treated on site and those who need more specialist treatment being transferred to the Royal or the Ulster.

Ministerial approval is the final hurdle for the long running campaign spearheaded by the Star and Lisburn City Council which received unprecedented support from the people of the Lisburn area. Thousands signed a petition and told their stories of why the service was so vital.

The new model will be implemented in phases, beginning with an extension to the current opening hours from 8am until 8pm, Enhanced GP services will be introduced and in the longer term, the Trust will be submitting a business case aimed at securing funding for a capital build project to co-locate the GP out of hours at the A&E.

The Trust have made it clear that with public support the scheme will help sustain the Lagan Valley Hospital for the forseeable future.

Mr Poots said: “I very much welcome the recommendation of the Board that the Lagan Valley Hospital should operate on a 24 hour basis once again,” he said.

“It will cover 97% of those patients who would have used the service before the reduction in hours last year.

“I believe what is being proposed is a sustainable model for the future and that it is fundamentally important for the well being of the Lagan Valley Hospital and the people it serves.

“In the longer term there are significant opportunities for the Lagan Valley and I believe that this step is significant in ensuring its future role, which can be enhanced over what is currently being provided for the local population.”

The Chief Executive of the South Eastern Trust, Mr Hugh McCaughey, said he was “very pleased” with the proposal and thanked local people for their input throughout the consultation process.

“I see this as an evolutionary process,” he continued. “We will change into a model which will see the vast majority of patients treated safely and well.”

Mr McCaughey added that he was “very keen” to see primary health care, in particular local GPs, located at the hospital site in the near future.

The Director of Hospital Services for the Trust, Mr Seamus McGoran, added: “This is the right model for the Lagan Valley Hospital and the right model for the people of Lisburn.”

julieann.spence@ulsterstar.co.uk