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BBC NI health correspondent Dot Kirby reports
"Many of the recommendations in the report have been made before in similar reports"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
Hospital shake-up plan published
Dr Maurice Hayes presents the report
Report followed year-long study by acute services panel
A health report is proposing the most radical change to services in Northern Ireland for a generation.

The Hayes report, compiled by chairman of the Acute Hospitals Review Group and former ombudsman Dr Maurice Hayes, is being published on Wednesday.

Its findings come almost a year after Health Minister Bairbre de Brun announced a wide-ranging review of the health service in the province.

Mrs de Brun said she needed measured, informed and objective advice on how acute services could best be developed to meet the needs of people in Northern Ireland.

New south west hospital

One of the main recommendations of the report is for a new acute hospital to be built in County Fermanagh to serve the south west region.

Nine acute hospitals
New south west hospital
Merge four boards into one
Reduce hospital trusts to three
Downgrade seven local hospitals
Double hospital consultants
25% more GPs
It would be one of nine remaining hospitals offering emergency care in the province.

However, the report proposes the removal of accident and emergency services from five existing smaller acute hospitals.

It also recommends the rationalisation of hospital administration by replacing the four health boards with one "strategic commissioning authority" and merging the 18 hospitals trusts into three "integrated health systems".

'Money for people'

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, Dr Hayes said he did not want people to focus on the proposals for health service structures when considering the proposals.

Dr Maurice Hayes chaired the review
Dr Maurice Hayes chaired the review
He said: "What we want is for money to be spent on people on nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, dieticians, and all those professions ancillary to medicine.

"We are trying to provide a seemless service where patients can move easily from primary care, easily through all the services they need."

Dr Hayes also called on people not to delay Department of Health decisions based on the report through opposition, because the public was "crying out for" decisive action.

"What we are trying to do is centralise the things that need to be centralised and decentralise everything else," he added.

"The status quo isn't an option. The service will collapse and good people will leave."

'Golden nine'

Before devolution, the Department of Health wanted to close seven of Northern Ireland's existing acute hospitals, centralising acute services to six main hospitals.

However, the report recommends that three more should be added to the original six.

The original six were the Royal Victoria and City Hospitals in Belfast, the Ulster Hospital outside Belfast, Antrim Area Hospital in County Antrim, Altnagelvin in County Londonderry and Craigavon in County Armagh.

The report says the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, County Londonderry, Daisy Hill hospital in Newry, County Down, and a new Southwest hospital in Enniskillen, should also be acute centres.

'Downgrade local hospitals'

While the report proposes that five acute hospitals should have their acute service removed, it also recommends more treatment should be given closer to patients' homes, either in health centres or new local hospitals.

Hospitals which would lose accident and emergency services would be the Mater in Belfast, Omagh in County Tyrone, the Lagan Valley in Lisburn, County Antrim, and the Whiteabbey hospital in Newtownabbey, County Antrim.

The Downe and Downpatrick hospitals would lose their maternity services.

The recent closure of acute services at the South Tyrone hospital in Dungannon would also become permanent.

However, the report does not recommend closing any existing hospitals.

It is understood the hospitals would be grouped into three super trusts:

  • Greater Belfast including - the Royal, Belfast City, Musgrave Park, Mater, Ulster, Whiteabbey, Lagan Valley and Downe hospitals
  • Northern including - Altnagelvin, Antrim, Coleraine, Antrim and Coleraine
  • Southern including - Craigavon, Daisy Hill and the new southwest hospital.

    The report recommends doubling the number of hospital consultants and increasing the number of GPs by 25%.

    'Doctor rotation system'

    It suggests a rotation system for doctors between the acute and local hospitals.

    It also advocates more cross-border co-operation on health and investing in the ambulance service to help it improve response times.

    It is understood that the proposed timescale for implementing the recommendations would be about 15 years, with a target date of 2008 for setting up the three new hospital trusts.

    The findings of the report will go out for public consultation and it may be another six months before any decisions are made on the future of acute hospitals.

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