Surgeons press for the need for a recovery plan for the health service

Surgeons press for the need for a recovery plan for the health service
The Royal College of Surgeons met with deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill on Friday at the Mater Hospital.

The representative body for surgeons in Northern Ireland has pressed the deputy First Minister on the need for a recovery plan for the health service following the coronavirus pandemic.

Coping with Covid-19 has seen hospitals and other health settings stretched and waiting lists grow.

Mark Taylor, director of the Royal College of Surgeons in the region, said the meeting with Michelle O’Neill at the Mater Hospital is the latest in a series with political leaders.

“One of the things we wanted to emphasise to Michelle was the difficulties that we’re facing at the present time with winter, but also how do we look to the recovery of surgery when we come through the winter period,” he said.

Mark Taylor, Director for Northern Ireland at the Royal College of Surgeons (Rebecca Black/PA)

“It’s really important to look at how we can recover elective surgery to take those poor people off the waiting lists.

“We as a board gave plenty of advice … we concentrated on the separation of elective surgery from unscheduled care and we talked about Covid light sites, or surgical hubs, and the fact we need to look at ways of increasing efficiency, and also cognisant of the training issues that our juniors face at this present time.

“I think the importance of today, like the other engagements, is that we’re all in this together, so it’s not just the politicians but we as clinicians that must work together to provide a health and social care that is fit for the future.”

Asked about whether further restrictions should be introduced, Mr Taylor said: “As a college of surgeons, we don’t influence policy with regard to public health matters, but suffice to say anything that reduces the burden of Covid-19 on our hospitals allow other activities to take place, and certainly as surgeons, the ability to carry out surgery, the ability to have a critical care bed for those complex surgical procedures, that’s all very important.

“Anything that reduces the impact of Covid-19 on our hospitals, we welcome.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, accompanied by chair of the Stormont Health Committee Colm Gildernew (Rebecca Black/PA)

Ms O’Neill, who was accompanied by chairman of the Stormont health committee Colm Gildernew, described the meeting as part of a continuation of engagement with health care workers.

“We really wanted to hear from them at first hand just how things are currently in terms of the day to day delivery of the health service, particularly given the most challenging period that we have all been through over the course of the last number of years,” she said.

“But actually, despite all the challenges, there are huge opportunities in terms of delivering care and changing how we deliver care so the Royal College of Surgeons certainly have some good ideas in that regard and things that we would support.

“The one thing that is so so important in the years ahead is that we transform how we deliver care, and the pandemic has shown us how we can be agile, and the pandemic has shown us time and time again how quickly we can reconfigure services and do things better to deliver better for the public.

“For the first time in many many years the health service will have a three-year budget, the Finance Minister Conor Murphy has prioritised health, and I think that’s so important because that allows us to do things differently, it allows us to plan differently, it allows us to support the health care workers who work night and day for us and those that we love.”