Page last updated at 17:18 GMT, Wednesday, 30 May 2012 18:18 UK

Health Committee

The author of a report on accident and emergency services at Antrim Hospital told MLAs she had spoken to staff who complained of a culture of bullying at the hospital, but had not referred to it in her report, on 30 May 2012.

Replying to a question from Alliance MLA Kieran McCarthy Mary Hinds told members of the health committee she had wanted to give "a total picture of the trust" and that she had not not been "gagged" or asked to change her words.

Two reports on the hospital were leaked to the press, Ms Hinds' report revealed low staff morale caused by a culture driven by "rules targets and protocols".

A second report by English GP Dr Ian Rutter drew attention to lengthy trolley waits at the hospital.

The permanent secretary of the Department of Health, Dr Andrew McCormick said the department had not been satisfied with the level of service at the hospital's accident and emergency for some time.

Regarding the leaking of the report, John Compton of the Health and Social Care Board said, "there was no intention not to be entirely open about the thing".

The DUP's Jim Wells was concerned about the attitudes of senior managers to staff 'whistle blowing'.

Sean Donaghy of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, which runs the hospital, said they had seen no evidence of bullying.

Earlier in the meeting, a health department official told the committee 170,000 patients were currently on waiting lists in Northern Ireland; 150,000 awaiting assessment, and 50,000 awaiting treatment.

Catherine Daly of the department of health said it was bidding for an additional £22m of funding in the June monitoring round to address the issue of waiting lists in certain specialities.

Her colleague, Julie Thompson, explained that the department had an underspend of £13.1m in 2011-12.

She said the department was also bidding for £18m for transitional funding for the reforms resulting from the "Transforming Your Care" report.

Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew was concerned about the future of health services in rural areas, such as her constituency of Fermanagh South Tyrone, due to a falling population resulting from the poor state of the economy.

Catherine Daly said the key focus of "Transforming Your Care" was on safe and sustainable services.

The committee also had a briefing on the suicide prevention strategy.

The Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride, told members the suicide rate "remains stubbornly high" at 15 to 16 per 100,000 per annum.

He said Northern Ireland now had some 300 deaths per year by suicide, almost six times the number of road deaths.

The figures were particularly high among 15 to 35 year-old males in deprived areas.

Dr McBride said the funding for suicide prevention now stood at £7m per year, and he outlined some of the current worlk being done to tackle the problem.

Committee chairwoman Sue Ramsey of Sinn Fein said she was "highly disappointed" by the department's response to the problem of suicide.

In particular, she singled out the fact that a ministerial subgroup on suicide had not met since January 2011.

Health committee membership


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