Published Wednesday, 05 February 2014
It follows a major incident being declared at the Royal Victoria Hospital last month on what should have been a routine evening, when a backlog of patients caused 12-hour trolley waits and "scenes like Beirut" with dozens of extra staff having to be called in.
Previously the DUP minister Mr Poots had rejected any talk of a "crisis" at the Belfast A&E unit and maintains the incident in January was a one-off - however it has now emerged that a review is being carried out by Regulation Quality and Improvement Authority.
A statement from the Health Department said: "The minister is seeking assurance for the public and for himself that our EDs are providing care of the highest quality and safety.
"He also wants to identify areas where there may be opportunities to make improvements."
The statement goes on to explain that the health watchdog RQIA has carried out inspections at the emergency department and acute medical ward of the RVH in recent days.
It said they have conducted an assessment of the quality of care and dignity afforded to patients and will report their findings to the minister within a matter of weeks.
Secondly, the statement adds, Mr Poots has decided to have the RQIA facilitate the work of an external expert team rather than having an HSCB-led review of the "January incident".
It goes on: "While the immediate focus is on the RVH as the province's major trauma centre, there will be learning which can be of benefit more generally across the system.
"It will examine the system from the prevention of hospital admissions, through effective discharge planning and timely discharge on the day of discharge, to the availability of appropriate community care and rehabilitation services.
"It is important to make progress in a considered and measured way, listening to the views of frontline professionals and mindful of the importance of ensuring at all times that the public retain confidence in our hospitals and continue to use them appropriately."
Local politicians have welcomed the setting up of the review.
Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin, who chairs the health committee at Stormont, said: "I assume the minister is now recognising that there is a crisis in Emergency Care and that he has finally decided to act before the situation gets worse.
"Crucially we need to rectify the clear meltdown in Accident & Emergency following the closures of A&E at the City hospital. I will be now seeking information from the minister around the terms of reference for the review and its expected impact on other hospitals."
Fearghal McKinney MLA of the SDLP said: "This must not be an attempt by the Minister to kick this issue into the political long grass. The crisis facing our health service will not go away and people will continue to demand answers."
© UTV News