Press Release

Minister Martin establishes forum on Accident & Emergency services

Mr. Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children, has today (13 February 2002) announced the establishment of a special forum to identify urgent measures which can be taken to enhance Accident and Emergency (A&E) services in acute hospitals, consistent with the commitment in the new Health Strategy Quality and Fairness – A Health System for you.

The forum will be chaired by Dr. Danny O´Hare, former President of Dublin City University.

Participants will include all relevant stakeholders: hospital management, members of the medical and nursing professions, para-medical and non-nursing personnel, staff representative associations and unions, patient advocacy groups and other interested parties.

Acknowledging that service pressures exists in A&E departments at this time of the year, the Minister said that these could be reduced through dialogue involving all parties. “I therefore urge all parties to participate in the forum” he said. The Minister stressed that one of the solutions to the problems experienced in A&E departments is the shortage of acute hospital beds for patients requiring admission.

In this regard the Minister said that he was pleased to announce last month that additional funding of €65m is being provided to commission 709 extra beds in public hospitals. “This is the first phase of the provision of 3000 additional acute hospital beds by 2011, as announced in the Health Strategy” said the Minister. “The additional beds represent further tangible evidence of the commitment by this Government to investment in the development of additional facilities for the treatment of public patients, and to the reduction of waiting lists and waiting times” added the Minister.

Key initiatives identified in the Health Strategy outlined by the Minister and designed to improve the operation of A&E departments include:

  • the establishment of 24-hour GP co-operatives to reduce pressure on A&E departments. “€17.292m is being invested in the development of this service in 2002” said the Minister.
  • the appointment of additional A&E Consultants (12 additional consultants have been appointed over the last year and funding has been provided to recruit a further 17).
  • the establishment of minor injury units to ensure appropriate treatment and management of non-urgent cases.
  • the use of chest pain clinics, respiratory clinics and in-house specialist teams to fast-track patients.
  • the re-organisation of diagnostic services to ensure increased access to, and availability of, services at busy times in A&E departments.
  • the appointment of Advanced Nurse Practitioners (ANPs)(Emergency) in acute hospitals to fast track treatment.
  • the use of admission protocols to ensure that emergency patients will be the only group of patients admitted to hospital through A&E departments.
  • the appointment of additional personnel to liaise with patients while they await diagnosis and treatment at A&E departments.

“I also requested Comhairle na nOspideal to review the structure, operation and staffing of A&E services and departments with the aim of improving the provision of patient care. This review has involved extensive consultation with the Eastern Regional Health Authority, each health board, relevant voluntary hospitals, appropriate professional bodies and other interested parties. The review also involved an extensive examination of literature regarding A&E services in Britain, Europe, the US, Canada, and Australia. This review is at an advanced stage and I look forward to studying the findings in the near future” said the Minister.

“I am confident”, he said “that this review, together with the range of initiatives which I have outlined, will contribute to a significant improvement in services to patients attending A&E departments”.