Edwin Poots to reform NI health care?

Edwin Poots was a fairly competent if at times somewhat undistinguished minister in the last Stormont executive. Since, taking on the Health portfolio, however, there are signs he has started to up his game to a marked extent. Initially he made the politically expedient choice as expected by all and gave the go ahead to the new Cancer Centre in Altnagelvin. Few surprises there.

The News Letter today reported the BMA calling for a radical reduction in the number of acute hospital to the predictable complaints of Michelle Gildernew and Jim Wells. They trotted out the usual tired and inaccurate claims that Northern Ireland is extremely rural and has bad roads hence, needing more hospitals. The fact that much of England, Wales, and Scotland are more rural, have poorer roads and yet have centralised hospital services producing better quality care is of course ignored as is the fact that the RoI is proceeding in exactly the same fashion.

Poots might be expected to follow a similar line to Gildernew and Wells: however, there are suggestions that he may be willing to make the tough but necessary decisions. The BBC is quoting him suggesting a radical change in the way hospital care is structured here.

From the BBC:

He did not name any hospital, but it is understood that the future of the Mater Hospital’s accident and emergency unit in north Belfast is in doubt.
Mr Poots also said critical care services in hospitals such as Daisy Hill in Newry should be restructured.
“I intend to get things moving and move quite rapidly,” he said. “We have a short space of time to get a lot of information out there.”

He also promised announcements on cancer and arthritis drugs.

Many had hoped that McGimpsey would be the man to sort out the NHS here but he failed pretty disastrously. Poots may become the champion of reforming our health care to bring it up to date. Although that will no doubt earn him some brickbats if he can achieve the sort of reform which is needed and steer it through the assembly not only will he have done Northern Ireland health care a great service but he will also do his own political position significant good. Until recently when one talked about competent DUP ministers who might go on to better things Arlene Foster’s name sprang to mind. If he manages these reforms maybe Edwin Poots will become the one to watch.

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  • Given a week is a long time in politics, Poots has eons to reform health care. 1 month down, 23 to go. That’s 400 days in real money. No prob.

  • iluvni

    ‘fairly competent’

    Is this the same Poots who championed the shambolic Maze proposal, wasting millions on the nonsense … and the same Poots with the shelved local Government reforms?

    I fear its not only vast sums of money at risk this time…he can do real damage now.

  • andnowwhat

    Surely it would make sense to close A&E in either the Royal or the city rather than the Mater given that the other 2 are within a hair’s breadth of each other?

  • Crubeen


    The Royal and City probably have more specialties to hand in the event of major trauma so it makes more sense to have A&E depts., that are geared to major trauma, there.

    Pressure on A&E departments would be much eased if there were more smaller minor injuries units and if patients were directed to them with the major A&E depts reserved for serious conditions – from traffic accidents to sudden onset of life threatening disorders.

    The vast majority of attendances at A&E could be safely treated at minor injury units if they have ambulances at hand to transfer major cases up the line.

    If the Minister is looking for ways to deliver services more economically he has only to look at the amount of administration and management and cut it at a stroke. I recently came across the concept of “Good Enough Management ” – enough but no more management than was necessary to get the job done.

  • joeCanuck


    I was employed in the nuclear power industry for quite a number of years. I can confidently assure you that a “good enough” management approach can be potentially very dangerous, both from a safety and profitabily point of view.
    I remember an anecdote from a management course that I took where they recounted how back 50 years ago, a dairy company produced an advertisement saying “quality milk from contented cows” (or something like that). A competitor shortly put out an ad saying “Our cows are never content; they’re always trying harder”.

  • tinman

    Certainly no movement from Poots on the Mid-Ulster in Tuesday’s adjournment debate:

    I am prepared to look at how we can best meet the needs of the people of mid-Ulster into the future, although I suspect that that will not involve the reinstatement of services at the Mid-Ulster Hospital.

    There are few things that bring politicians together like a threat to their local A&E – it remains to be seen how well Mr Poots will stand up to that kind of pressure, including from his own party colleagues. Time will tell.

  • Bungditin

    “fairly competent”

    Just to add to iluvni’s list – the same Edwin Poots who has probably added years on to the John Lewis public inquiry because of his public criticism of those judicially reviewing the case? The same EP who’s former department is being judicially reviewed over his ill informed decision on the Belfast City Airport? The same EP who has risked the only World Heritage desigation in NI by over ruling planners and approving a large hotel, holiday home complex and golf course beside the Giant’s Causeway? The same EP who went against advice of his civil servants and approved a massive out of town tesco in Bannbridge which is now threatened by judicial review?

    The big question we should be asking is how many hundreds of thousands of £s has this “fairly competent” minister cost the tax payer in legal costs for judicial reviews??

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’d be surprised if the judicial review overturned the Tesco Banbridge decision. It is within the Minister’s competency to overrule the planning office and provide planning permission for things. Nigel Dodds did exactly this about ten years ago when the planning permission came up for the Victoria Square project.