Antrim Hospital

Oral Answers to Questions — Health, Social Services and Public Safety – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 14 October 2002.

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Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP 3:15, 14 October 2002

5. asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to make a statement on the waiting lists at Antrim Hospital and to give her assessment of the effects of the scarcity of community care packages on bed blocking there.

(AQO 313/02)

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Bhí 1,935 duine ar liosta feithimh d’othair chónaitheacha ag Otharlann Cheantar Aontroma ar 30 Deireadh Fómhair 2002. Is ionann sin agus laghdú de 100 sna sé mhí ó 31 Mhárta. Thar an tréimhse chéanna, tháinig ardú de 140 ar chásanna lae ó 2,269; bhí moill ar 73 duine a scaoileadh amach ar 30 Meán Fómhair 2002 mar gheall ar dheacrachtaí ag freastal ar an éileamh ar chúram sa phobal.

Mar gheall ar na brúnna seo, chuir mé maoiniú ar fáil do bharda breise 24 leaba san otharlann; tá sé le bheith ann faoi Mhárta 2004. Tá an t-iontaobhas ag obair chomh maith le Bord an Tuaiscirt agus le mo Roinn le teacht ar bhealaí breise le liostaí feithimh a laghdú, go háirithe i ngnáthaimh lae agus i gcúram lae agus trí phacáistí breise cúraim phobail a chur ar fáil.

The inpatient waiting list total at Antrim Area Hospital, on 30 September 2002, was 1,935. That represents a reduction of 100 in the six months from 31 March 2002. Over the same period, day cases rose by 140 from 2,269 to 2,409. There were 73 delayed discharges at 30 September 2002, due to difficulties in meeting the demand for care in the community. In recognition of these pressures, I have made funding available for an additional 24-bed ward at the hospital, scheduled to be in place by March 2004. The trust is also working with the Northern Health and Social Services Board and my Department to find further ways to reduce waiting lists, particularly for day procedures, day care and through the creation of additional community care.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Does the Minister agree that there is an acute shortage of community care provision in the Homefirst Community Trust area and that a contributory factor to the lack of community care is that patients in Northern Ireland receive some of the lowest levels of funding per patient in the Health Service? Will she confirm that beds are being blocked and that patients are being admitted on an emergency basis because they are not being adequately treated in the community? For example, east Antrim has some of the longest occupational therapy waiting lists. Will she explain why the consultant rheumatologist for the Northern Health and Social Services Board area had to close her list in March 2000? Furthermore, would she care to comment on the rumour that the Massereene ambulance depot is being considered for relocation and on the effects that that would have on jobs and the delivery of care in the community?

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

I am slightly at a loss to understand the connection between an ambulance and the provision of money for care in the community. However, if the Member wishes to write to me on the subject, I would be happy to take up that point with him.

On several occasions I have stated that years of underfunding have affected not only hospital capacity but, vitally, care in the community to the extent that it impacts on people who are admitted inappropriately to hospital and on people who are ready to go home but whose discharges are delayed because they are not able to go home. It also has an impact on those waiting for services in the community. That is why I secured an additional £19·1 million for the current financial year, which will increase the capacity of health and social services boards to make payments to care homes, to implement the changes that I have already outlined in nursing care, and to support an additional 1,000 people in community settings. I continue to seek extra funding to increase that number even further. I continue to prioritise delayed discharge. I assure the Member of that and of the restoration of domiciliary care as a cost-effective alternative to institutional care.

Photo of Iris Robinson Iris Robinson DUP

The Minister’s answer to the Member for East Antrim and to supplementary questions from other Members illustrates the overall, unsatisfactory state of the health sector in the Province. As her period in charge comes to an end today, what does the Minister think she has achieved in office? Bearing in mind that hospital waiting lists have deteriorated to the extent that they are now the worst in Europe; that expensive consultations have provided few tangible results; that our acute hospitals have insufficient resources; that staff are overworked and feel undervalued; and that GPs do not involve themselves in local health and social care groups, what were the Minister’s aims, and what does she think that she has delivered?

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

Order. It would be in order for the Minister to answer the points of the supplementary question that relate to the primary question.

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

When I came into office one of my priorities was to address the situation that I found and that the Member’s party would also have found, had it not passed over this portfolio. The situation was that, for many years, there had not been sufficient investment in hospital or community services, capacity, equipment, staff or staff training. Therefore, one of my major achievements has been to highlight and document that in workforce planning and to seek, and to some extent gain, the funding to put that in place. With regard to the scarcity of community care packages, people will see that, since I took on this portfolio, there has been a shift towards community care and more money invested in community care than there had been for some time.

Members have recognised that.

There is also integrated working as shown by the work that was done originally on winter pressures, and that has been extended to greater integrated working in the whole service. As Members know through a variety of announcements, work has also been done on replacing equipment; on new additional staff, particularly for nurse training; on the provision of an overall strategic view of the way forward; and, specifically, to address delayed discharges and inappropriate admissions to hospital.