The findings of a new study which shows major concern amongst clinicians about political interference in the design of hospital services needs to be taken seriously,  Social Democrats representative Niall Ó Tuathail said today.

One GP in the Mid-West said in an interview for the Cork study: “You’ve every local politician with a placard saying ‘oh we want to keep this service in this hospital, our patients deserve it’. It’s bloody daft, like you know, that needs to be dealt with.”

Niall Ó Tuathail, Social Democrats Galway representative and health reform advisor to the NHS, says that we need an honest conversation with the public about hospitals if we are going to save lives. He said:

“In Ireland we do far too much healthcare in hospitals and it is killing people through our elderly picking up infections waiting on trolleys or through doctors without enough experience doing complex medicine in small hospitals.

“In the majority of developed countries where they have a decent health service, people have much more services closer to home – for example nursing teams looking after frail and elderly people and allowing them to live at home and go to the local primary care centre for blood tests, even 24/7 services that deal with minor injuries.”

Mr Ó Tuathail said that even if more money was available we would not be able to have safe services in all of our hospitals:

“To have safe hospital services, you need our most senior doctors and nurses teaching junior staff. But we have a small number of these senior staff and we are spreading them too thinly across too many hospitals and it means there are big differences between hospitals in how likely you are to survive. This is unacceptable.”

Ultimately, the NHS reform advisor believes that the Sláintecare reform plan produced by a cross-party Oireachtas committee last May is the only way forward for the Irish health service:

“If we keep going as we are, we will need to build a new hospital every year or two and we won’t have the staff to run them safely. We need to do something very different. The Future of Health Committee, chaired by Social Democrats joint leader Róisín Shortall TD, advocated a massive investment in primary care and a move away from hospitals. This is what most other countries have done or are doing and the Sláintecare plan needs full political backing and leadership if we are going to save money, but more importantly save lives.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Cork Study referenced: “Perspectives on the underlying drivers of urgent and emergency care reconfiguration in Ireland” is here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hpm.2469/full

Niall Ó Tuathail is the Social Democrats candidate for Galway West. He works as a health reform advisor to the NHS in England and Scotland. He recently wrote a Twitter thread on redesigning hospitals services: https://storify.com/niallotuathail/getting-started