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.”

Bradshaw queries detail of £30m for waiting list backlog

paula-bradshaw-351x400Alliance Health Spokesperson Paula Bradshaw has queried the Department of Health on where the detail is on the allocation of £30 million extra for delivering measures to eradicate the waiting lists backlog.

The South Belfast MLA stated: “At a Departmental Briefing nearly three weeks ago, MLAs were promised detail on clear measures to tackle waiting lists by the end of the month.

“Just as one example, we now have 10,376 people waiting over a year to see a consultant ophthalmologist for conditions such as cataract or glaucoma. These have a serious impact on people’s lives and cause serious concern – particularly as they are often experienced by people with other conditions, or who care for people with complex needs. The knock-on effect on families and social circles is vast.

“Therefore, we must move quickly to tackle waiting lists and provide assurances to those who are on them. We are already well overdue clarity on where money will be targeted and what this extra £30 million allocation will achieve.

“It is also long since time the two main parties recognised their responsibility to those 10,376 people and got on with the job of government.”

Money for waiting lists insufficient without functioning political institutions

pb316Alliance Party Health Spokesperson Paula Bradshaw has cautioned that the £30 million allocation to tackle waiting times is insufficient without political institutions to provide direction and oversight – and warned also that the money will be taken from other aspects of transformation.

The South Belfast MLA stated: “On the face of it, an allocation of £30 million extra to tackle waiting times will bring some relief to many people, and that is a good thing.

“Nevertheless, the extra allocation was not meant to tackle existing problems with the system, so in effect this money is being taken from other aspects of transformation. Although the Bengoa Report did speak of stabilising aspects of the existing system, including waiting lists, the extra allocation was supposedly assigned to the transformation of that system.

“More importantly still, it has been clear now in countless reviews going back over a decade that money alone, especially when focused on existing systems, will not solve the range of problems which exist across Health and Social Care. What is required is a reform process which sees a fundamental re-allocation of priorities towards ensuring that people get the right information, treatment and medicine immediately upon entering the system, not months or years down the line after referrals.

“Although I am content with the direction of travel of the transformation currently, there is a very real concern that the entire programme is being carried out without any democratic oversight. This is another reason that we need functioning political institutions urgently – and if the big parties are unwilling to provide the Health Minister that they are supposed to take responsibility for providing, we at least need to have some means of democratic scrutiny to ensure the process of transformation is being adequately resourced.”