Published Wednesday, 09 April 2014
Health Minister Edwin Poots is due to speak at the summit later. (© Pacemaker)
Organised by the College of Emergency Medicine, Northern Ireland's most senior representatives from areas such as hospital medicine, nursing and general practice attended on Wednesday, along with managers and representatives of Trade Unions.
Minister Poots told delegates that no suggestion is off the table when it comes to finding solutions to improve the quality of unscheduled and emergency care in the region.
The summit aims to find out how to best maximise the effectiveness of the services in Northern Ireland, examine the issues and challenges facing services - both regionally and nationally - and to identify best practice and successful strategies across unscheduled care.
Minister Poots said: "This Unscheduled and Emergency Care Summit is about whole system solutions. I have said before that many of the solutions to the challenges in Emergency Departments (ED) will be found outside the door of the ED.
"That is why I have asked the College to ensure this summit brings together some of the most senior health professionals across Northern Ireland and charge them with looking at these UK-wide issues systemically.
"Since becoming Minister I have been struck by the fact that wherever one looks at the health sector across the UK, one finds a great deal of commonality in the challenges faced. An ageing population together with the increasingly complex nature of healthcare interventions, is challenging health systems everywhere," the DUP minister added.
These challenges are by no means unique to Northern Ireland, nor to the UK for that matter.
Edwin Poots, Health Minister
"We are in many ways victims of our own success. People, especially elderly people, are living longer fuller lives. Conditions which in the past would have been fatal are now able to be managed appropriately with ongoing support. This is to be greatly welcomed. However it does present the health and social care system with significant challenges as to how we work."
The minister added: "However we must recognise our own limitations. I am under no illusion that we will solve all of the challenges facing us in any one day, or in any one summit."
Dr Clifford Mann, President of the College of Emergency Medicine, said that the problems faced in Northern Ireland are not specific to Northern Ireland when it comes to emergency medicine - they are UK wide.
"The key challenges are recruitment into emergency medicine, retention into emergency medicine and making sure the hospitals have a funding mechanism which is fair for treating acutely ill and injured patients."
Dr Mann said the college is focusing on the problem of 'exit block' in hospitals across the UK and the Republic of Ireland - where hospitals are unable to move patients "in a timely fashion" from Emergency Departments to in-patient beds.
He said that exit blocking had been particularly acute over the last winter - and the last three years - and the summit would be focusing on how to remove it.
"With exit block, you don't have flow. If you don't have flow, you don't have a safe and efficient system."
A 60 day follow-up event to be held on 9 June 2014.
© UTV News