The Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats have received expressions of concern from a number of stakeholder parties at uncertainties over the future of Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, currently under review by the Department of Health at Stormont as an aspect of the Transforming Your Care programme.
The difficulties at Causeway are acknowledged by all, and constitute a major impediment to the delivery of healthcare to North Antrim and the North Coast. These stem principally from an inability to recruit and retain senior Medical and Surgical professionals at Causeway, especially in the areas of Emergency Medicine and Maternity.
Causeway Hospital currently operates within the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, and as such, it shares many services, including the services of many Consultants and an entire spectrum of less-visible activities such as nursing, supply, Biomedical Science services, etc with other institutions of the Northern HSC Trust including Antrim Hospital. One possible “solution” mooted for the senior staffing difficulties is the transfer of Causeway from the Northern HSC Trust to the Western HSC Trust. The principal motivation being suggested for such change is the potential for new multi-centre working arrangements between Causeway and Altnagelvin Hospitals.
We are seriously concerned that such a proposal does not adequately acknowledge the existing multicentre arrangements from which Causeway benefits in the Northern Trust. Many of these arrangements have been put in place at considerable cost in recent years following the merger of the former United Hospitals, Homefirst and Causeway Trusts.
It should be pointed out also that within the current
fourfive-Trust [thanks @Alanlaw] structure in Northern Ireland, community and acute services reside within the same Trusts. Thus, any transfer of Causeway would have to be accompanied by a transfer of community medical, mental health and social care provision in North Antrim and on the North Coast. We suggest that this depth of change to healthcare in the Causeway area is an unnecessarily disruptive answer to the difficulties at hand.
Again, we do not seek to deny the seriousness of the shortfalls at Causeway, or the difficulties faced by the Department of Health in trying to put them right. We acknowledge that provision here has been overly territorial and insufficiently collaborative as many within healthcare in Northern Ireland will admit. However, that surely points to a possible alternative pathway — The further development of Causeway Hospital need not be a zero-sum process. — Even at a time of comparative scarcity in the NHS, we feel that there is potential within both Trusts for the Department to find, even perhaps to pioneer, better networking arrangements which enable Causeway’s existing strengths and relationships to continue as new capabilities are created for the benefit of all in North Antrim and on the North Coast.