Saturday, January 21, 2023

Health leaders seek meeting with foreign secretary over ‘alarming’ pressure

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The letter to Chris Heaton-Harris was co-signed by the Heads of Northern Ireland’s Royal Colleges, representing Surgeons, Emergency Medicine, General Practitioners, Nurses, Anaesthesiologists and Paediatrics and Child Health.

The health leaders said the meeting had to take place without delay due to the “continued alarming situation, the continued pressure on staff and the implications for patient care”.

Northern Ireland’s healthcare system has been hit by intense pressure

last months. The region also has the worst hospital waiting lists in the UK.

Health is a decentralized matter, but in the absence of a functioning executive branch to share power, Mr Heaton-Harris was forced to step in and set a budget for government departments.

The letter from the Royal Colleges said the lack of an assembly put them in an “impossible situation”.

It added: “We are doctors and nurses, caring for people at the most vulnerable points in their lives. It’s a privileged job.

“We have to stand up for our colleagues and patients. We must try to find ways to improve a very difficult situation that shows no signs of improvement.”

The medics said they wanted to raise their concerns personally with the Northern Ireland minister.

Her letter continued: “We see the real dangers of normalizing the unacceptable on a daily basis. It is now commonplace for patients to be cared for in the corridor.

“Ambulances regularly pile up outside, waiting to offload very ill patients. There are patients who wait for long delays before care begins in crowded emergency rooms.

“Patients are admitted for surgeries that can no longer be performed under routine conditions.

“Furthermore, they have waited far too long on what has been described as the worst waiting lists in the UK before being admitted.

“The situation is just as unbearable for children. Some have to wait up to four years or more for elective care to begin.

“The pediatric services are working hard throughout the play to deal with unprecedented numbers coming in through emergency rooms and through outpatient waiting lists.

“These wait times are unacceptable because important milestones in life development are missed and life chances are irrevocably compromised if care is not provided on time.

“Nurses are leaving in droves because of insecure staffing conditions.

The family doctor’s practice is in crisis and threatened with total collapse.

“All of this means that employees suffer moral injuries, anxiety and burnout.”

The latest letter to Mr Heaton-Harris came a day after the five main parties in Stormont called on him to step in to draft a new organ donation law.

The opt-out system was passed by MLAs in Stormont last year, but passage of the law has been delayed due to the political deadlock.

The leaders of seven educational institutions have also called for an urgent meeting with the Northern Ireland Minister to discuss school funding.

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