Health staff ‘cannot be expected to continue improving’ – BBC News

  • By Marie-Louise Connolly
  • BBC News NI health correspondent

image source, Getty’s image

Northern Ireland’s health system cannot expect its staff to “step up again and again” to provide patient care and ensure their safety.

That’s according to the head of the Northern Ireland Confederation for Health and Social Care, which marks the 75th anniversary of the NHS.

Long-term funding plans, political leadership and transformation are all past time, says Michael Bloomfield.

Tough choices – whether here or in London – must be made soon, he said.

“There is a clear vision of what needs to happen, leaders across the health and social care system know what needs to happen – we just need the political leadership to ensure that happens,” he told BBC News NI.

The 75th anniversary of the NHS was celebrated across England, including in Stormont, with parties, afternoon tea and music.

On Wednesday evening, some of Northern Ireland’s most iconic buildings, including the Stormont Parliament Building and Belfast City Hall, will be lit blue.


The guest of honor at Stormont is six-year-old Dáíth MacGavann

Amid all the festivities, there are mixed feelings about the current and future state of health and social care.

NI’s Royal College of Nursing director, Rita Devlin, described the idea of ​​not having an NHS as “unthinkable”.

“We need to ensure that the environment in which we ask our nurses to work is one that values ​​the work they do and pays and rewards fairly for what they do,” he said.

Other issues that need to be addressed, he adds, are career paths, training and ensuring that “when a nurse wants to stay at the bedside, it is valued just as much as a nurse who wants to go into management”.

Analysis: Change is needed for the NHS to continue to hit milestones

There has been a lot of talk in the last few days about how much we love the NHS as it marks its 75th anniversary.

While Northern Ireland’s system was created separately, it adheres to the same principles, including being free.

But have our notions of romance and love affairs with the old lady faded away?

Considering the trauma around waiting lists, workforce, funding, strikes and lack of leadership – if the NHS is to exist in another 75 years, by 2098, real input is needed.

As we have seen in Northern Ireland, plans alone are not enough.

image source, Getty’s image


The NHS will have to reinvent itself to get to 100

Whether it’s patients or staff, people are the key to success.

Patients, if necessary, need appropriate interventions to prevent them from getting sick in the first place. Physical activity, healthy eating, and functioning GP services are key.

A sustainable workforce requires the right recruitment and policies that will make it strong. It must be led and shaped from within and by those who know what is best.

Appropriate pay is also important for frontline workers to feel valued and resilient.

None of the above would have happened without Stormont’s executive or leadership, including from within the health trust.

As much as we love older women, if the NHS is to make 100, many feel it needs to be allowed to reinvent itself and become a much younger and more versatile model.

Armagh County GP Frances O’Hagan says public practice is in a very different place than it was 75 years ago when healthcare started and the NHS – or regal old lady – was at its peak.

“We see a huge challenge in primary care, we see a woman (from the NHS) maybe in palliative care and we have to prevent her from ending her life,” he said.

He adds that for some patients, the system works surprisingly well — but often “getting in” is the hardest part.

Looking to the future, according to Prof Mark Taylor, requires a “robust workforce strategy” but also “the awareness that prevention is better than cure”.

“Gone are the days when a hospital could have all the facilities and all the specialists in one building,” he said.

“We have centers of excellence where people may have to travel and they may have to go to larger hospitals to have surgery of any description, so I think we have to say that we can’t continue to spend money on healthcare in its current format. and expect a different result.”

He said authorities needed to look at how to make the NHS more efficient, whether that’s clearing the savings in surgery, his own specialty, or in “ensuring people get an earlier diagnosis and more timely treatment”.

At Ulster Hospital, the parking lot was full of vehicles and lined up for ambulances — a common feature in the winter months, but, according to emergency department consultant Sean McGovern, people came through its doors in the summer when they couldn’t be seen anywhere else.

He said if the NHS is to see 100 years there needs to be a lot of changes including an extra focus on social care and end of life so that elderly people don’t end up in the Emergency Department.

“Many of the bedridden patients are in end-of-life care and their desire is to be treated in the community.

“We have to be stronger in professional development for people with careers in social care and domiciliary care,” he said.

While all of Northern Ireland’s medical royal colleges agree that major changes need to be made – the key question is whether those changes will be implemented by local politicians or Westminster.

Peter Owens, assistant catering in Ulster, said it was important to remember all the staff working in the hospital.


Peter Owens says that more than just doctors and nurses run the hospital

“Everyone thinks of the hospital and they automatically think of the doctors and nurses, they don’t think of the patient experience staff, the admin staff and all the band two and band three staff that keep the place running,” he said.

“Everyone thinks about the doctors and nurses, but more than that, it’s about me and all the other kitchen staff from the cooks to the service assistants, even the people who work in the dining room.”

Samantha Foley is a domestic care worker who visits an average of 37 people in the community during a 12 hour shift.

“When you go to work, you put your own feelings and everything onto the backburner and you’re there to provide a service for them,” he said.


Samantha Foley says health workers in Northern Ireland feel like “underdogs”

“It can be the smallest little thing you do for them, but it makes a big difference.”

Health workers across the UK recently received a pay rise, but that’s not the case for Northern Ireland,

Samantha said: “We really feel like the underdogs, we don’t get what we deserve, we work long hours and we all have to take extra shifts to keep our household afloat.

“I’ve booked 10 extra shifts this month.”

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