DoH approves permanent service change

Date published: 08 January 2024

The Department of Health has approved the Southern Health and Social Care Trust decision to permanently consolidate emergency general surgery services at Craigavon Area Hospital.

Department of Health Latest News image white text on a departmental blue background
Department of Health Latest News image white text on a departmental blue background

Emergency general surgery had been split across Craigavon and Daisy Hill Hospital until a shortage of general surgery consultants led to the temporary suspension of provision at Daisy Hill. Today’s decision makes that temporary position permanent.

The Department has concluded that the temporary arrangements demonstrated the merits of consolidation on a single site. It provided stability in clinical staffing, meaning safe services can be sustained in the longer term.

An average of three patients per day have been directed to Craigavon from Daisy Hill for emergency general surgery services. Assessment of these arrangements has found no indication of any patient coming to harm.                    

General Surgery specialises in abdominal organs such as stomach, gallbladder and bowel. Emergency general surgery is the overall term for unscheduled care in this field and can mean specialist advice, admission for tests and, for some patients, an operation.

DoH Permanent Secretary Peter May said: “The approval reflects the reality that all hospitals cannot provide all services. There has to be a level of consolidation and specialisation in light of advances in medicine.

“Daisy Hill Hospital will continue to provide a vital service to the local community, across a range of key specialities. The Department’s commitment to Daisy Hill is reflected in the decision to make it an Elective Overnight Stay Centre, caring for patients who may require an overnight stay in hospital after planned surgery.

“The Trust advises that since April 2023, over 6000 patients have been treated at Daisy Hill EOSC across a range of specialties including general surgery, gynaecology, ENT and endoscopy.

“The Department has also confirmed capital investment to upgrade the electrical infrastructure at Daisy Hill Hospital.”

Today’s approval on consolidating emergency general surgery at Craigavon Area Hospital aligns with the direction of travel set out in the Department of Health’s Review of General Surgery published in June 2022.

The Permanent Secretary continued: “The inability to recruit and retain consultant general surgeons to Daisy Hill was due to clinical factors, not any lack of effort. When hospitals have lower patient numbers, this can create significant issues for professionals working in key specialties. These include rota/on-call pressures inherent in smaller clinical teams, as well as insufficient case mix to support specialisation, training and skill development.

These issues inevitably have consequences for recruitment and retention.”

The Southern Trust decision followed a public consultation.

The Permanent Secretary also stated: “I am satisfied that my approval of the Trust’s decision is in accordance with Northern Ireland Executive Formation legislation and the associated Guidance published by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

“It is also in step with the transformation agenda for health which emphasises that changes are required to maintain sustainable services.”

Notes to editors: 

1. The Trust decision to permanently consolidate emergency general surgery services at Craigavon was reviewed by the Department in line with the 2023 Department of Health Guidance Change or Withdrawal of Services - Guidance on Roles and Responsibilities.

2. In making today’s decision, the DoH Permanent Secretary received advice and assessment from the Department’s Strategic Planning and Performance Group and the Public Health Agency.

3. For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office by email

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5. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service For Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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