Northern Ireland

Weight loss hub at South West Acute Hospital could help restore emergency surgery, campaigners say

The South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen.
The South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen. The South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen.

EMERGENCY surgery at the South West Acute Hospital could be restored if a weight-loss surgery hub was opened, campaigners have said.

There was a public backlash in late 2022 when a decision was made to suspend emergency general surgery at the site in Enniskillen over difficulties in recruiting surgeons.

On Thursday, the Save Our Acute Services (SOAS) campaign group handed in 19,000 consultation responses to the Department of Health.

It concerned plans for a Proposed Regional Obesity Management Service, with the group arguing SWAH had the capacity to deliver bariatric surgery alongside a broader commitment to restore emergency general surgery.

It follows comments from a leading Northern Ireland surgeon, who said specialist surgical hubs remained the best way to tackle waiting lists.

This process separates planned surgery from emergency care, meaning lower-priority operations are not cancelled.

By concentrating such specialist services on one site, it also means surgeons have enough patients to maintain their skills.

Niall McGonigle, NI Director of the Royal College of Surgeons, told the BBC that patients should be prepared to travel longer distances to reduce waiting times.

The SWAH site is already a hub for overnight elective surgery.

Mark Gillespie, director of surgery and paediatrics at the Western Health Trust, added this has been a game changer for what has been an under used hospital, with 1,300 patients receiving surgical care there since January 2023.

“We need the population of NI to be bought into the idea of travel because that will give us more timely access to theatres and patients will be seen a lot quicker and will have a more positive experience.”