Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Edwin Poots discussed his desire to change the system by which patients are referred to hospital, in the hope of taking the pressure off emergency departments, during today’s Question Time. The current system sees General Practitioners (GPs) referring patients to emergency departments, who then refer patients on to hospital as appropriate. The Minister said that he “fundamentally want(s) to change that, and we need to ensure that there is a communication that exists between General Practice and our hospitals that ensures that people are admitted appropriately, and we have as many people as possible that can be admitted to hospital without having to go through emergency departments”.
Mr Poots is keenly aware of the strain currently placed on emergency departments but outlined the initiatives in place as part of the ‘Transforming Your Care’ review such as the ‘Acute Care at Home’ service which has been set up by the Belfast Trust to provide acute care to people in their homes. In response to a question on the current performance of Antrim Area Hospital’s emergency department, the Minister provided the encouraging news that, despite an increased volume of patients this year, the waiting time targets have increased by approximately 5% compared to figures for the previous year.
During the scheduled oral questions the Minister also discussed meningitis B vaccination, research initiatives to improve health care and the Public Health Agency’s cancer awareness campaign. Throughout question time Mr Poots was eager to impress the impact that cuts arising from the stalling Welfare Reform Bill will have on his department saying that they would have a “devastating impact on the Health Service”.
A period of topical questions followed in which the Minister answered Members queries on the costs associated with alcohol misuse, blood donations and the concerns of the Royal College of Nursing.