Inquiry into emergency healthcare

Inquiry into emergency healthcare

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has launched an inquiry into emergency healthcare following a major incident at a hospital earlier in the year.

In January senior managers at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast had to call in extra staff and open more beds to deal with an influx of patients.The public and those working in the health system are now being invited to participate in the inquiry.The Commission will consider the human rights obligations of the Northern Ireland Executive and other relevant public authorities, and identify whether the rights of people seeking emergency care were protected.It will also identify good practice and make recommendations for improvement.NIHRC Interim Chair, John Corey said: "We want to hear from anyone who has recently experienced emergency healthcare, and in particular from those who have sought care from an Accident and Emergency Unit. We also want to hear from the staff who provide this vital service."The Commission has opened a dedicated confidential Freephone line for the next three weeks and submissions are also being accepted online. Patients, family members, health care staff and representatives in the sector are encouraged to come forward and share their experiences.Public hearings will take place in the autumn at various locations and the commission will call on government representatives, public officials, staff, trade unions, patients and their family members to give evidence.The inquiry panel will include Commissioner Marion Reynolds, assisted by Professor Paul Hunt, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health.Mr Corey added: "The inquiry will consider the total experience of emergency health care from a human rights perspective. This includes the individual's rights to respect for dignity, access to information, and their involvement in decision-making."The Commission will publish its final report and recommendations to the Executive in April 2015.Sinn Féin health spokesperson for Stormont, Maeve McLaughlin, has welcomed the inquiry and has requested an immediate briefing."We have been saying for some time now that the health service has been staggering from one crisis to another, putting patients' lives at risk," she said."The intervention by the HRC means that patients, some in desperate need of immediate medical attention, are being so mistreated in A&E that it may breach their human rights."This is unacceptable in any institution but within hospitals, which are dedicated centres of care and compassion, it's a disgrace."We have been calling on Minister Poots to review how resources are being used in the health service as both patients and staff have highlighted serious breakdowns in care."

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