Staffing issues see children gastro service suspended

Staffing issues at a centralised specialist paediatric gastroenterology team has led to the temporary cessation of outreach to the Western Trust area, the Health Minister Robin Swann has confirmed.

Mr. Swann stated: “The Belfast service is commissioned to support three consultants and supporting infrastructure. Given the very specialist nature of the service it has been challenging to maintain the three person team and as such arrangements for outreach provision specifically are constrained at this time due to a vacancy in the consultant team.

“The service did previously outreach to the Western area and [the Department of Health’s] Strategic Planning and Performance Group will aim to review this once the third consultant appointment is progressed.”

The minister revealed details of the stoppage to the outreach service when questioned by the Foyle SDLP MLA Mark H. Durkan.

Robin Swann.

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“Paediatric Gastroenterology is provided by Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and is located in the Children’s Hospital.

“The service model is centralised in Belfast consistent with safety and sustainability requirements inherent in the provision of a highly specialist paediatric service within a population base of 1.9m.

“On this basis it would not be possible to establish an additional service in a second Trust in Northern Ireland.

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“Whilst the service is centralised in Belfast there is intention to provide support to local provision where it is safe and sustainable to do so.

“This includes specialist advice and guidance to paediatricians with an interest in gastroenterology allowing children to be managed by their local hospital.

“It can also include a level of outreach working in conjunction with the local clinical team delivering specialist care for children closer to home.”

907 car parking fines issued at WHSCT this year with 469 fines at AltnagelvinSDLP MLA Mark H Durkan commented: “There is a clear need for a dedicated paediatric gastroenterology service within the Western Trust area however, I understand that a local provision is not sustainable in the current climate.

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“Last year, I facilitated a meeting with families of children affected by the upheaval of making the journey to Belfast with sick kids for routine appointments. In some cases, these appointments consisted of a five-minute patient update yet families were expected to make hour long journeys to and from Belfast.

“In most instances, this resulted in parents taking time off work and children missing school in order to facilitate the appointment. I must say, I was surprised to see just how widespread this issue and how many families have been impacted.

“At the time the Health Minister was unable to tell me just how many young patients were affected but I’m glad that in response to my latest Assembly Question, Minister Swann has acknowledged problems within the service specifically in relation to outreach provision. I hope that this element can be reviewed in the time ahead and welcome opportunities to make this specialist service more streamlined and accessible for patients.”