Poots takes action over care failings

Poots takes action over care failings

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.

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 PootsA 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 reportThe 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."This is what we said all along - there would come a point when the system couldn't bear the strain any more."

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