Political row erupts over NI health reforms

28 Jun 01
Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson has claimed that unionists will lose out to nationalists as a result of proposals from the Hayes Review of health and social services in Northern Ireland.

29 June 2001

He criticised plans to downgrade the hospital in his Lagan Valley constituency, and focus services instead in West Belfast.

Supporters of Tyrone County Hospital in Omagh, including victims of the Omagh bomb blast in 1998, also responded with anger to the news that they would lose their accident and emergency facilities under the proposals. But review chairman Dr Maurice Hayes said that it was not possible to plan health facilities on the basis of where bomb attacks might take place.

Lagan Valley and Omagh are among six hospitals whose A&E facilities would be replaced by nurse-led emergency units, and lose existing maternity units. A new £75m super-hospital is recommended for Enniskillen as one of nine hospitals that would provide acute services.

The Hayes Report is the most far reaching health reform proposed for Northern Ireland in 40 years.

It would lead to the abolition of the existing four regional heath boards, to be replaced by a single strategic health and social services authority. These would oversee three regional health providers, replacing the existing 18 NHS trusts.

A £1bn capital investment programme over ten years is proposed, with all hospitals using state-of-the-art equipment and IT systems. It is proposed to double consultant numbers, increase GPs by a quarter and nurses by a fifth.

GPs would be given more influence, as well as responsibility to ensure that better primary care cuts acute admissions by 1%.

In line with Sinn Fein health minister Bairbre de Brun's remit, the review group has proposed ways to increase cross-border co-operation in health provision.

The report was welcomed by de Brun, who promised to consult on the proposals before final decisions are taken in six months.


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