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Temporary Suspension of Emergency General Surgery at South West Acute Hospital


The Western Trust on Thursday 17 November 2022, at a special Trust Board meeting, addressed the challenging position regarding Emergency (unplanned) general surgery at South West Acute Hospital, Enniskillen in light of a further resignation within the general surgery team.

In addition, Trust Board also discussed plans being developed with the Department of Health to expand non-emergency planned surgery at the hospital.

Speaking after the meeting, Geraldine McKay, Director of Acute Services at the Western Trust, said:

“I spoke publicly last month on the fragility of Emergency general surgery at SWAH. At our Trust Board meeting today, we updated Trust Board members on the current position and in particular a further resignation received from another consultant in the general surgery team. This now means that we will not be in a position to provide an emergency (unplanned) general surgical rota from 18 December 2022.

“Despite our previous and ongoing efforts to recruit, we have not been successful to date in securing the necessary consultant workforce. The Trust is therefore now unable to maintain the required workforce to sustain and deliver a safe emergency (unplanned) general surgical service to our population from SWAH.

“Put simply, we cannot provide an emergency general surgery service without a consultant surgical team in place to provide the required 24/7 cover.

“We can confirm that our Trust Board approved today to a recommendation for an unplanned temporary suspension of Emergency General Surgery at the SWAH, Enniskillen. This is necessary to protect public health/safety.”

She continued:

“The current rota for emergency general surgery will be maintained up until 4 December 2022. Planned elective surgery at the hospital will continue.

“There will be no change to the Emergency Department (Type 1) at South West Acute Hospital which will continue to operate as usual on a 24/7 basis. There will be minimal to no impact on the other existing services at SWAH.

“We have developed and will implement alternative clinical patient pathways to mitigate risk and protect the safety of people needing to avail of emergency general surgery services after the current rota ends and are focused on minimising the impact of this temporary arrangement on the hospital’s acute services. We will communicate the clinical patient pathways in the coming days.

“We are liaising with our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and the Southern Health and Social Care Trust on the new arrangements.”

Commenting on longer term plans, Western Trust Chief Executive Neil Guckian said:

“We need to fully utilise all of our theatre capacity across South West Acute Hospital to undertake more elective procedures, and we are delighted to work with the Department to develop SWAH as an overnight elective surgery centre to benefit the growing numbers of patients on our waiting lists.

“I would like to pay tribute to our surgical teams for their continued commitment despite these mounting pressures and thank staff at South West Acute Hospital for their flexibility in supporting these temporary arrangements.”

He continued:

“I want to reassure the local community that the Trust is fully committed to developing and enhancing South West Acute Hospital as an essential part of the Western Trust and regional hospital network. SWAH has a very busy Emergency Department, fantastic facilities and a wide range of very vibrant specialities.

“We ask for public support and understanding as we continue to work through the challenges to develop a solution that meets the future needs of our population. We will be carrying out a full public consultation on this temporary change including seeking views on how emergency general surgery might be restored, and will outline the details of consultation process in the coming weeks.

“Extensive work will be undertaken to inform patients of the change to general surgery services, including public advertising, posters and social media messaging.”