Eleanor Leahy’s fight for answers for her son

Eleanor Leahy gave birth to baby Nathan on the 12th of January 2003 in Erinville . At a tiny 725g Nathan was thought unlikely to survive. He was, however, a fighter and he clung with all his strength to life and did indeed survive. Sadly, despite this achievement the story is no fairytale. His mother has spent years looking for answers. Being born so premature, disability was a promise from birth. A kind of ‘best case’ scenario. Eleanor had suffered … Read more

Donaldson in review

It is a pity that coverage of the Donaldson review has focussed on his comments on the number of hospitals in Northern Ireland relative to its population.  It is true that he remarks on this, but his report is a lot broader than considering whether skills are being spread too thinly across too many hospitals – something korhomme discusses here, and I comment on briefly with regard to locations. What stands out is that Sir Liam considers the Northern Ireland … Read more

Does Northern Ireland have too many hospitals?

A recent report into health services in N Ireland has said that there are ‘too many hospitals’. The report also has a lot to say about the organisational structure of the NHS here. This isn’t the first time that hospital provision here has been questioned; decades ago, an MP in the old Stormont described N Ireland as having a hospital at every bus stop. So how many acute district hospitals (DGH) would be appropriate? It’s easy enough to calculate a … Read more

From Napoleon to drunks in the Royal. The messy state of Accident & Emergency Departments.

Korhomme is a retired medical consultant. Pick up any newspaper these days, and you’re certain to find an article about the woes of A&E departments. Overrun with patients, the waiting time requirements have gone to pot. And here, in N Ireland, we are the leaders in the UK in terms of long waits, as described on Slugger here. The medics who work in A&Es aren’t happy, and neither would you be, for this story has an awful ring of truth … Read more

Emergency Emergency – the perilous state of Emergency care provision in Northern Ireland

Much has been made in the press in recent days about the crisis in local hospitals. Planned surgery has been cancelled to cope with the deluge in Accident and Emergency units. The system is certainly under strain and medical staff are under significant pressure. I thought it would be interesting to crunch the numbers to see how the difficulties being faced here compare to those in Britain. There is a nationwide target in Emergency units to treat, discharge, or admit … Read more

Health reforms slowly being revealed

Slowly, almost painfully so, the health reforms are beginning to be revealed. The Compton Review stated that each of the Health and Social Care Trusts was to bring forward proposals for hospital services by June 2012. It is slightly unclear if that was to be the start or the end of this month: however, rumours of proposals have been circulating for some time with Marie Louise Connolly of the BBC providing most of the information: The Royal Victoria Hospital is … Read more

The solution to the A+E problems lies outside A+E

The travails of the NI NHS are back in the news and specifically the problem of A+E: except it is not actually all an A+E problem. The main problem is the long waits in A+E of 12 hours or more. It must be understood that these people are not a waiting initial assessment and treatment but rather are awaiting admission to a ward: their A+E stay and treatment should have already finished. These people are entirely inappropriately being treated in … Read more

The solution to hospital bed crises: not necessarily more beds

The problems surrounding the Emergency Department at Antrim Area Hospital have made the news several times this week and led to one general practitioner stating that he would not want to go there as a patient (well no one actively wants to be an A+E patient as no one wishes ill health on themselves but his point is well made). There are actually two different problems regarding A+E departments which have occurred in the last few weeks. They often occur … Read more

Why is it so difficult to downgrade local hospitals?

The response to the Compton Report has thus far been remarkably low key. In part this may be because the Report is so comprehensive and so well argued, backed up by studies and statistics at every turn. Furthermore it says very little that anyone with any significant interest in health policy has not known for years. Possibly (and depressingly) one of the other reasons is that the Report carefully avoided stating which acute hospitals should be downgraded. It seems pretty … Read more

Godot arrives: Compton Review delivers

Last week I suggested that Northern Ireland health reform was like waiting for Godot. Now Godot has arrived, told us he is sorting out major changes and that he will be back soon. The Compton Review (pdf) is a large and highly impressive document. Despite having been carried out in only a few months it has clearly been well researched with examples taken from best practice throughout the UK. There are twenty one chapters which detail everything from maternity to … Read more

Waiting for Godot: Northern Ireland’s health care

Waiting for Godot, one of Samuel Beckett’s greatest works, documents Vladimir and Estragon’s fruitless wait for the eponymous Godot. At times waiting for health reform in Northern Ireland has been rather like Beckett’s play: lots of promises that it is about to happen but nothing ever does. In 1966 there was apparently a plan to have six main hospitals for Northern Ireland and most of the reviews subsequently have suggested that as the optimal number of acute hospitals. Throughout Direct … Read more

Compton Review due next week

The Compton Review into the future of the NHS here in Northern Ireland is due to report next week. There have been a series of articles about it recently: yesterday the BBC mentioned that Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry is likely to be downgraded whilst the Belfast Telegraph has suggested that the Mater in Belfast will lose consultant led maternity services but keep A&E. Amid all the speculation, educated or otherwise, the News Letter’s Ben Lowry, a couple of weeks … Read more