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Consultation launched into urgent and emergency care in Northern Ireland

The future shape of urgent and emergency care in Northern Ireland is to be debated at a summit this summer.

The event in June will bring together clinicians, patients and representatives from organisations across health and social care, including the royal colleges.

The summit will inform public consultation for the review of urgent and emergency care announced by Northern Ireland’s Department of Health in November 2018.

Dr John Maxwell, an emergency department consultant in Belfast who is leading the review, said the status quo could not continue.

‘Our emergency departments continue to face serious pressures. The level of pressure usually experienced at winter is now lasting throughout the year and is showing no signs of letting up.’

He added: ‘Many people who currently attend emergency departments do not have life-threatening emergency care needs and could be dealt with more effectively in different settings.’

Dr Alan Stout, chair of BMA Northern Ireland’s GP Committee, hoped the summit would bring fresh thinking: ‘Changes to emergency care are important for both GPs and hospital doctors as this is where the two services frequently overlap. Emergency care needs to be for genuine emergencies, so it is welcome that the Department is exploring other options for delivering care in the community when people need it.’

Dr Anne Carson, BMA NI consultants committee chair welcomed the summit: ‘Pressure on our emergency departments increases every year. We know there are better models of care and better ways of delivering services to those who need them and hopefully this event will progress that work even further.”