Northern Ireland news

Health leaders request urgent meeting with secretary of state over health crisis

Senior health leaders have called for an "urgent meeting" with the NI secretary of state

SENIOR health leaders last night called for an "urgent meeting" with the secretary of state to raise their concerns about the ongoing health crisis.

In a letter to Chris Heaton-Harris, they say they want to discuss the "the continuing alarming situation, sustained pressures on staff and consequences on patient care".

"In the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, we find ourselves in an impossible situation," the letter states.

"We are doctors and nurses that look after people during the most vulnerable points of their lives. It is a privileged job.

"We must speak up for our colleagues and patients. We must try to find ways to improve a very difficult situation that shows no sign of improving."

Co-signed by the Northern Ireland leads for the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Royal College of Anaesthetists and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, they say they want to "raise their concerns in person".

"On a daily basis, we see the real dangers of normalising the unacceptable," the letter states.

"It is now commonplace to see patients receiving corridor care. Ambulances are regularly stacked up outside waiting to offload very sick patients.

"There are patients waiting huge delays for care to start in crowded emergency departments.

"Patients are being admitted for surgery that cannot be undertaken in routine circumstances any more. Furthermore, prior to admission they have waited far too long, on what are labelled the worst waiting lists in the UK.

"For children, the situation is equally intolerable. Some face waits of up to four years and more for elective care to begin. Paediatric services are working hard across the piece to care for unprecedented numbers arriving via emergency departments and through outpatient wait-lists. These waits are unacceptable with significant life development milestones missed and life chances irrevocably affected if care isn't timely.

"Nursing staff are leaving in droves because of unsafe staffing levels. General practice is in crisis and at risk of total collapse. All of the above means staff are suffering from moral injury, anxiety and burnout."

The letter adds: ""We have no other political avenue but to ask for this meeting. Our patients and colleagues deserve this chance for their concerns to be heard."

Northern Ireland news