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Rural inequalities not addressed - Ritchie

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

SOUTH Down MP Margaret Ritchie has said the Health Minister must eliminate rural inequalities following the release of the Bengoa Report.

Minister Michelle O'Neill said the Northern Ireland health system is at breaking point and set out a 10 year plan to transform services, last week.

The Bengoa Report was commissioned by NI ministers seeking advice on how to improve services, cut waiting lists and care for an ageing population.

However, Ms Ritchie was critical of the Health Minister, accusing her of investing vast sums of money in the recruitment of consultants to tell them "what we already know - that we need radical investment".

“What we want to hear from the Minister for Health is that the concentration on better capacity of primary care is the maximum use, development and provision of a range of new services in Daisy Hill Hospital to ensure that the people of Mourne have equal and local accessibility to medical and health services," said Ms Ritchie. "This would help address rural inequalities."

Meanwhile, Daisy Hill Emergency Department's 'four hour performance' has dropped by 6.6% compared to this time last year.

The Department of Health recently released its July to September 'Emergency Care Waiting Time Statistics for Northern Ireland' report, which also revealed that there were an extra 261 people who attended Daisy Hill's A&E in September 2016 compared to September 2015.

'Four and 12 hour' measures are used to monitor Emergency Department (ED) performances, which report the percentage of patients treated and discharged or admitted from EDs within four hours of their arrival and the number treated and discharged or admitted from EDs within 12 hours of arrival.

In September 2015 Daisy Hill's four hour performance was 86.4% but dropped to 79.8% in September 2016.

The report also revealed that there was a total of 4,305 attendances at Daisy Hill's A&E in September of this year and that 20.2% of those who attended waited longer than four hours in emergency care departments.

The purpose of the report, which was released on Thursday (October 27), is to present information on the time spent waiting in EDs, for both new and unplanned review attendances in Northern Ireland.

It reports on the performance of the country's EDs against the Department of Health's Ministerial target.

The current Ministerial targets on emergency care waiting times in Northern Ireland for 2016/17 states: "From April 2016, 95% of patients attending any Type 1, 2 or 3 emergency care department are either treated and discharged home, or admitted, within four hours of their arrival in the department, and no patient attending any emergency care department should wait longer than 12 hours."

However, in September of this year, Daisy Hill was only 32 minutes short of the 12 hour target at 11 hours and 28 minutes, according to the 95th percentile, which means that 95% of the time, the usage is at or below this length of time - but four Type 1 EDs, including Daisy Hill, achieved the 12-hour component of the target during September 2016.

On average in Northern Ireland the 95th percentile stands at 10 hours and 48 minutes.

The median time spent in Daisy Hill's ED for those who were admitted to hospital was three hours and 25 minutes in September 2015 but rose to four hours and 43 minutes in September of this year, while the median time spent for those discharged stood at one hour 57 minutes in September 2015 and two hours and four minutes in September 2016.

The information detailed in the release of the report was provided by Health and Social Care Trusts and was validated by Hospital Information Branch.

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