Cautious welcome for neurology review

pb316Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has given a cautious welcome to the Department of Health’s review of neurology services, but added some political leaders are failing to lead on health issues.

The Department announced the review as part of its Delivering Together programme of service reviews announced in 2016. It will begin in September and report by early 2019. The South Belfast MLA said she was pleased to see neurology given the priority it deserves.

“The review is an opportunity to address wide-ranging issues across diagnostic testing, staff workload, workforce planning, communication with patients and families, and issues around governance and accountability including those emerging from the ongoing Inquiry.

“The timescale is challenging if patient voices are to be fully heard through the review, but necessarily so. I have written to the Permanent Secretary seeking assurances the timetable will be appropriately managed.

“We also cannot escape the reality political leaders are failing abjectly to help on this issue and countless others. For thousands of people across Northern Ireland – those on waiting lists for diagnosis or treatment, those unsure if past diagnoses are correct, and those in the service awaiting reform so they can do their job free from the incredible pressure they are under – this is the number one priority of government at the moment.

“This only leads to further anger and mystification when they hear leaders rehashing tired old arguments about issues well away from the problems in health and education which affect our daily lives. Too many politicians continue to believe they can get away with playing games while real people in real life are suffering.”

Bradshaw backs calls for action in cross-party abortion letter

PB APNI shotPaula Bradshaw MLA has signed a cross-party letter alongside elected representatives from across the UK and Ireland to support a campaign by Stella Creasy MP, which urges the British and Irish governments to use the forthcoming British Irish Inter-Governmental Conference to play a role in moving along the issue of abortion here in Northern Ireland.

Paula said, “I signed the letter because I felt the two main actions being requested are effectively calling the two governments to account on the issue of meeting commitments on human rights for women here. The first action is for the UK Prime Minister to set out an explicit legislative timetable for parliamentary scrutiny in Westminster of the Domestic Violence Bill, which includes the potential repeal of sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861. This would result in the decriminalisation of abortion across the UK.

“The second action calls for an urgent ‘pathway to adequately provide for human rights – including compliant healthcare access for women in Northern Ireland’. The British and Irish government are co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, and as such, should be doing more to getting the institutions defined under it back up and running as soon as possible. I believe the letter is a clear reminder of their responsibilities under this.

“I want to see this ‘pathway’ defined and agreed at the Inter-Governmental Conference, so that we, locally-elected members of the legislative assembly, can get back to work and to put in place legislation that meets the healthcare needs of women here.”

Attacks on ambulance staff cause widespread disgust

pb316Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said it is past time for action to tackle those who attack ambulance staff.

The South Belfast MLA was speaking after it was revealed there have been 2,278 reported incidents of abuse on ambulance staff here since 2012/13, with 483 coming in the past year.

“No public servant should go to work fearing they may be subject to attack. It is unacceptable ambulance staff are operating in such appalling circumstances that almost two work days are lost for every day in the year,” said Ms Bradshaw.

“Almost 900 cases of physical abuse in just six years is an almost unbelievable figure, and will cause widespread revulsion across the community. Added to the even greater number of cases of disruption, and we see a situation which plainly cannot be allowed to continue.

“I fully share the Ambulance Service’s implicit view we all have a role in making attacks on public workers socially unacceptable. Whatever the circumstances, there is simply no excuse whatsoever for abusive behaviour of any kind to a public servant, least of all one on potentially life-saving duty.”

Concern that lack of Assembly will have an impact on addressing neurology patient recall investigation

PB APNI shotAlliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said she is concerned the lack of an Assembly will mean the potential mass misdiagnosis of neurology patients is not adequately addressed.

Ms Bradshaw was speaking after received a briefing from the Department of Health on actions being taken in response to the recall of over 3,000 neurology patients who may have been misdiagnosed. A redress scheme has been discussed and an independent inquiry into the recall will also take place.

“I am deeply concerned the lack of an Assembly is going to impede the ability of the Department of Health and the health trusts to ensure this situation is adequately addressed into the future on three grounds,” she said.

“In the long list of recommendations in the Hyponatraemia Inquiry Report, there were two of acute significance to this situation – the introduction of the duty of candour and the creation of a new post, called an independent medical examiner.

“With the pending independent inquiry, if this duty of candour was enshrined in law, it would require medical professionals to be open and honest with patients when something goes wrong with their treatment or care. Currently, there is potential this inquiry will not have full disclosure of all the circumstances.

“In addition, the Belfast Trust is having to rely on the goodwill of its neurology consultants to cover the recall review clinics and associated work. Introducing an independent medical examiner would have in place the process whereby already over-stretched healthcare professionals are not having to be diverted from their existing case-load of patients.

“The redress scheme options will be presented to the next Health Minister for consideration and to bring forward associated legislation. But as are all too aware, the prospect of having one in the near future is very slim, and I deeply fear those affected will be kept waiting for redress as appallingly as the victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse.”

Mesh audit should be only the start of thorough reform

pb316Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said recommendations from a review of vaginal mesh surgeries here should only be the start of more thorough reform.

The South Belfast MLA was speaking after the review found 78 per cent of surgeons did not carry out the 20 annual surgeries required by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) with 15 per cent performing fewer than five operations.

Recommendations include surgeries should be undertaken by trained practitioners who conduct at least 20 procedures per year and data should be submitted to a recognised national audit to facilitate monitoring of results.

“The audit provides some useful recommendations including around the level of training and specialism required. However, it is evident the audit should be only the beginning of a more thorough review,” said Ms Bradshaw.

“For example, only this week a report by a group set up by the Welsh Government stated surgery should only be used as a last resort, and emphasised the need for a more robust process of consent and a preference for a pathway based around physiotherapy. It is inconceivable Wales would be significantly different from Northern Ireland so it is hard to see how those recommendations would not apply here.

“We also have to consider the issue of mesh used for hernia treatment for men. Therefore, the audit provides a useful starting point – but we need to be clear that is what it is.”

Bradshaw welcomes clarity over health money allocation

PB APNI shotAlliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has welcomed clarity over extra allocation of money to transforming the health service, saying the focus must be on primary care and community services to ensure successful transformation.

The Department of Health said it will spend the £70 million in various areas – primary care, including GP practices, community services, workforce development, technology and prevention. South Belfast MLA Ms Bradshaw said it made sense to target areas in primary care.

“The key issue with the development of primary care teams and focus on it, is it means fewer people will be referred on to waiting lists in the first place. Delivered correctly, this will see people access the care, medication and treatment they need sooner. That is why we must continue to make progress with the transformation process, regardless of the political position.

“This is not a matter of figures on a page. A person on a waiting list may be a worker, a carer, a key player in the local community or in a local club – and the knock-on effect not just of the waiting list itself but of the stress and uncertainty which goes with the wait cannot be underestimated. Being on a waiting list can see a person’s life put on hold – and the lives of those around them. The allocation of this money is a reflection that this requires both short-term and long-term interventions.

“The scale of the waiting list crisis is also encouraging the development of a two-tier health service, with many people feeling they have no option but to go private while those who cannot afford that are left to wait. If we are to avoid that being permanent, we need to act not just on resourcing reductions in waiting times immediately but also on a longer term transformation of primary care to develop multi-disciplinary teams and other services at point of access to serve larger population areas. Our current set-up means we have too many people being placed on to waiting lists in the first place rather than receiving the care they need swiftly.

“Targeted wisely, this money can begin to tackle this and thus bring down waiting times and improve the service immediately at point of access. It is important this boosts progress on the broader transformation agenda.”

Bradshaw says removal of arts money disgraceful

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Alliance South Belfast MLA Paula Bradshaw has expressed concern at the latest round of cuts to arts funding, as 43 organisations had their funding cut due to budget pressures on the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

The cumulative loss to the sector over the past six years now stands at £23 million.

“Alliance supports increased public support for the arts,” said Ms Bradshaw.

“Investment in the arts benefits both individuals and our economy. For a tiny proportion of public expenditure, the arts delight audiences, provide employment opportunities and are a vital part of a healthy society. The cuts which have been under successive DUP and Sinn Féin ministers are a clear indication of their disinterest in art and artists.”

“Any incoming Executive must lift per-capita funding for the arts to the average within these islands. The sector has already experienced devastating cuts, and the potential loss of organisations and events would only cause further damage. The Department for Communities must stand up for arts funding in Northern Ireland.”