Support urged to mitigate impact of cancelled surgeries

DUP Upper Bann MLA Jonathan Buckley who is also a member of the Assembly’s Health Committee has said he is ‘aghast’ at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust’s decision to postpone cancer surgeries in light of evidence that the level of hospital admissions during the current surge in Covid-19 cases has been significantly lower than previous waves.

By Jonathan Buckley MLA

Upper Bann

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Commenting, Mr Buckley said:

‘‘With the rate of hospital admissions from Covid-19 sitting around a third of previous waves of the virus, there is understandable dismay right across the community at the decision by several Health and Social Care Trusts to cancel elective procedures, including some cancer surgeries.

We know that fewer people are requiring acute inpatient care during this surge than in the early stages of the pandemic. Many people will therefore question why further postponements have been made to potentially lifesaving and life-changing treatment.

While the needs of cancer patients are foremost in our minds, this disruption also impacts those deemed to have ‘non-time critical’ illnesses. It will inevitably lead to additional pain and suffering and generate pressures facing our health service going forward.

It is disappointing that lessons from earlier waves of the pandemic have not been taken on board. This is especially true of workforce planning, given the incredibly low number of appointments from the HSC Workforce Appeal and unfathomable delays in appointing bank nursing staff. Everyone would have hoped that the widespread vaccine uptake and reduced pressure on hospitals should have resulted in additional protection for elective care and safe and stable care pathways for non-Covid patients. It is deeply troubling that this hasn’t materialised to date.

I would urge the Minister of Health to urgently examine what support his Department can provide to Trusts to mitigate the cancellation of surgery and address ongoing delays to staff recruitment.

In order to protect our health service and alleviate further disruption I would also encourage those who have not received the Covid-19 vaccine to step forward for their jab as soon as possible.’’

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