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Western Trust welcomes support of Royal College of Surgeons


South West Acute Hospital exterior

Western Trust Medical Director Dr Brendan Lavery said:

“The Trust welcomes the Royal College of Surgeons response to our consultation on the temporary suspension of Emergency General Surgery at South West Acute Hospital.

“From the outset we have been clear that the decision to temporarily suspend emergency general surgery at SWAH was taken to protect the safety of our patients and it is clear from the Royal Colleges Clinical expertise that they support our current position to deliver a safe service.”

Through a joint response by the Royal College of Surgeons of England (in Northern Ireland) and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh they deemed the Trust’s decision to temporarily suspend emergency general surgery at SWAH as “an appropriate decision in light of SWAH being unable to meet two core areas of the clinical standards outlined by the Review of General Surgery – workforce (ie insufficient consultant General Surgeons to safely staff the out of hours rota) and also clinical interdependencies.”

The consultation response does highlight the increasing journey times for ambulances to get a patient to Altnagelvin or Craigavon, which has caused concern within the local population however outlines “the issue of transfer and ambulance times therefore needs to be balanced against the risk to patients of a potentially sub-standard offering at SWAH. The judgement of the Royal Colleges is that the latter is the greater risk to patient safety.”

The response also goes on to highlight the “problems pertaining to recruitment of surgeons not just in Northern Ireland but also the UK with 229 Surgeon vacancies in the HSC at present. Noting “it has increasingly been the case that smaller rural hospitals across the board, in the UK and worldwide, have failed to recruit consultant general surgeons. It is important to note that this is not because of a lack of effort, nor is it a reflection on SWAH, the Trust or other hospitals or the local areas in question.

Dr Lavery continued:

“The Royal Colleges response reflects the many facts the Trust has been underlining before and during this temporary suspension, and that this is not solely a reflection on the Western Trust but is an issue across HSC and the UK.

“We would like to again thank all those who responded to our recent consultation and reiterate our commitment to ensuring the safety of our patients.”

Read the full statement from the Royal College of Surgeons