Health leaders request urgent meeting with Secretary of State over health crisis

Royal College leaders representing thousands of doctors and nurses in Northern Ireland have written to the Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris requesting an urgent meeting in light of the ongoing health crisis.

The crisis meeting letter has been 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.

In a joint statement, the senior health leaders said they are calling on the Secretary of State for a meeting without delay due to the continuing alarming situation, sustained pressures on staff and consequences on patient care. They also wish to acknowledge the efforts of the Department of Health in doing their best to make decisions whilst bearing in mind the accountability deficit and associated civil service limitations.

“In the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, we find ourselves in an impossible situation,” they said.

“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.”

The purpose of the meeting with the Secretary of State would involve the opportunity for the Royal College leads to raise their concerns in person.

“On a daily basis, we see the real dangers of normalising the unacceptable. 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 anymore. 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 waitlists. 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. 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.”

Further Information

For media requests, please contact Cliona McCarney, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at RCGPNI
07341 737033

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.