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.”

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 backs new District Nursing Framework

PB APNI shotAlliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has endorsed a new District Nursing Framework which will see nursing care available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The South Belfast MLA said she warmly welcomed the Northern Ireland launch of the Nursing Now campaign, which is designed to ensure everyone has access to nursing care wherever they need it.

“This comes with the endorsement of the World Health Organisation and the International Council for Nurses, and fits perfectly with our own overall health and social care transformation programme here in Northern Ireland.

“The Framework focuses on the patient and takes a broader ‘population health’ approach, which enable staff to be better supported and patients to be better and more appropriately cared for as soon as they access the service.

“I welcome the work of the Chief Nursing Officer and others in making this a reality despite the lack of clear Ministerial direction. This does demonstrate, however, the need for those with the biggest mandates to take more seriously their responsibilities with regards to taking on the management of the reform of our healthcare system for everyone in Northern Ireland.”


Bradshaw welcomes extra health money for Trusts

pb316Paula Bradshaw MLA has welcomed additional money being made available to the health service, saying she expects it to be an eleventh hour reprieve against proposed cuts to the health Trusts.

The South Belfast MLA was speaking after the Department of Finance proposed an extra £40 million to go to the Department of Health, subject to ratification by a Budget Bill. She said while the money was welcome, the question remained as to why the health Trust consultations were carried out.

“I expect the extra money from this Monitoring Round to go to the Trusts, which were having to introduce higher impact savings measures following a recent consultation into their services. This overdue clarification means cuts which would have had a serious impact on people’s wellbeing and quality of life need not happen.

“However, the question is why the Trusts were required to initiate and pursue the charade of this consultation process, when growing indications of exactly this amount of money being made available for health have persisted for the past number of weeks. Staff, patients and families have had worries stoked up for no reason.

“There should be no illusions we remain in a precarious position, despite this money. While this stands down the proposed frontline cuts, we still need to reform the system, ensure more can be done in primary care to bring down waiting lists, and consider what other savings can be made across government to ensure we can maintain a high quality health service free at point of access.”

Bradshaw demands immediate restoration of Executive as waiting lists soar

pb316Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has demanded the immediate restoration of the Executive after figures showed waiting lists are soaring.

The South Belfast MLA was speaking after the publication of the quarterly waiting times statistics, which showed as of the end of June, a rise of 17.2 per cent of people waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment than at the same point last year.
A rise of 3.2 per cent meanwhile was seen from the same period last year for patients waiting for admission to hospital.

“It is clear the big two parties are now shirking their responsibilities with regards to managing the health service and the reform programme to which they committed,” said Ms Bradshaw.

“Implementation of the recommendations of Bengoa is urgently required as they are specifically designed to reform the broken system which leads to far too many people on waiting lists. It was also the DUP and Sinn Fein who chose not to raise health spending in line with England, and they cannot run away from their responsibility to fix that.

“There is now no more time for the cynical blame game. Proposals already exist for a compromise on the issues which they themselves claim caused the breakdown. Now is the time to restore the Executive, while allowing the Assembly to scrutinise and debate free from improper use of petitions.
“People’s lives depend on it.”