Poots takes action over care failings

Published Tuesday, 08 April 2014
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Health Minister Edwin Poots has spoken of his anger at the serious failings within the health service which have prompted him to brief MLAs on a programme of action to improve standards of care.

Poots takes action over care failings
Health Minister Edwin Poots addresses the Stormont Assembly. (© UTV)

Speaking in the Assembly on Tuesday, the DUP minister confirmed that he intends to commission former Chief Medical Officer of England, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, to advise on governance.

"I was deeply upset to hear of suggestions that dignity is not always afforded to those who die in our emergency departments. This cannot continue and must change," Mr Poots said.

"I was angry that people had experienced unacceptable levels of care; I was angry that staff did not feel supported in delivering the care they wish to; and I was particularly angry at the suggestion that targets should come before patients.

"This is unacceptable and I cannot and will not tolerate it."

My approach in responding to those failings has been to find out what went wrong and to ensure action is taken to correct it, as these are serious matters and deeply concerning for those patients and their families.

Health Minister Edwin Poots

A number of serious issues have been raised in recent months, particularly regarding the standard of care within the Belfast and Northern Health and Social Care Trusts.

The Northern Trust is investigating the deaths of 11 patients, including five babies - they are among a total of 20 cases between 2008 and 2013 where the response was deemed "below standard".

Meanwhile, investigations have been carried out into the situation at the Royal Victoria Hospital's Emergency Department and Acute Medical Unit.

The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) was asked by the health minister to undertake an inspection following issues around lengthy trolley waits and pressure on staff.

Speaking about the findings of the investigation, Mr Poots added: "Despite the failings identified, one clear message shines through, and that is the commitment of the staff to their patients - staff who are genuinely upset whenever they feel they have not, for reasons outside of their control, been allowed to give the best care to their patients.

"These are doctors and nurses, social workers and many other health professionals, porters and domestic staff and managers, who are making enormous effort to ensure that the sickest and most vulnerable people are given priority and patient safety protected.

"My thanks and appreciation goes out to them all. The challenges are complex and some of the solutions will not be immediately deliverable."

RQIA inspectors concluded that there was need for immediate action to relieve the pressures on staff and to reduce risk in critical areas.

RQIA report

The RQIA's report, published on Tuesday, has made a total of 59 recommendations for improvement at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

"The inspection focused on a range of issues including: staffing levels for nursing and medical staff; safety; the environment; and the patient experience," RQIA Chief Executive Glenn Houston said.

"RQIA observed practice in departments and wards, observed team meetings and examined documentation and patient care records. The inspection team also spoke to over 100 staff from a wide range of disciplines, and to patients and their relatives."

The inspectors found a number of issues, including dealing with peaks in demand, meeting targets like treating patients in under 12 hours, and staff shortages in critical areas.

Mr Houston added that the Belfast Trust has advised RQIA that many of the recommendations made have been addressed or are in the process of being addressed.

"RQIA will assess the trust's progress through a further inspection as part of its review of the Care of Older People in Acute Hospital Wards," he said.

"RQIA's Review of Arrangements for Management and Coordination of Unscheduled Care in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, chaired by Dr David Stewart, is currently underway and will be completed in June 2014."

Patient safety should be the first consideration.

RQIA Chief Executive Glenn Houston

"Certainly I think our inspectors found some aspects of the report disturbing," he admitted.

"I'm confident that the Belfast Trust has started on a journey of change."

He continued: "I think what disturbed us was the degree of pressure on the system and the frustrations of the staff."

Patricia McKeown, of the union Unison, told UTV: "This is cosmetic. It's designed, I think, to try and take the heat off."

She said that the report was dealing with some of the symptoms without addressing the root cause - money.

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"This is what we said all along - there would come a point when the system couldn't bear the strain any more."
© UTV News
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9 Comments
liz in belfast wrote (147 days ago):
working for the belfast trust for over ten years i have saw many changes which are not for the good of neither the service user not staff. Too much politics, too many chiefs and a massive cut in resources and staffing levels. moral runs low and stress runs high. once.i went home feeling my job was done well. now you worry you havent done enough and patient care is suffering badly. frustration is high and work satisfation no longer exists. problems have been coming for years. shame on our systems for letting it go so far.
mick in dromore wrote (147 days ago):
if smoking at the entrances of hospitals cannot be stopped and stamped out. How can we expect the minister to do something complex. Signs are not good enough. Like in life we want action not words.
Jim in Belfast wrote (147 days ago):
Poots is a farmer...should not be running our hospitals
Lorraine in NI wrote (147 days ago):
As much as I dislike pots, it's John Compton who destroyed the health service here. I was at a meeting November time and one of his representatives said arrogantly there is no option B, is has to work. When I pointed out to her that it wouldn't, she said it just had to. I wondered that night when he would be retiring, so looks like he sunk NI and will be waddling off to pastures new and the rest if the population will have to suffer in silence!
Melvin in Regina, SK Canada wrote (148 days ago):
Why not increase the number of Doctors and Nurses? This is the only solution to this problem. I practiced nursing in NI for many years then left NI to work as a nurse here in Canada where, there is much better pay and much better working conditions.
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