MID and East Antrim Borough Council is to to seek urgent meetings with the Northern Ireland Permanent Secretary for Health and the Health and Social Care Board in the Northern Area to discuss councillors’ concerns around health services including rising levels of serious conditions and growing waiting lists for appointments and treatments locally.
The Mid and East Antrim area faces particular challenges with performance against key health outcomes – namely obesity, self-harm and drug related hospital admissions, and life-expectancy rates – when measured against the Northern Ireland average.
At the end of August 2019, there were 13,243 patients waiting over 26 weeks for a diagnostic test in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust area, while performance indicators suggest ongoing issues within the borough’s health service will negatively impact residents in the short, medium and long term.
Meetings will now also be urgently sought with neighbouring councils whose areas link into Antrim Area Hospital to outline an appropriate way forward, while the various Trade Unions representing healthcare workers involved in the current ongoing industrial action across Northern Ireland will be contacted by Council and assured of its support.
Over the last year, issues surrounding health services in the borough have been discussed by Council, with seven separate Notices of Motion tabled on areas including suicide, mental health and end-of-life hospice care.
Braid councillor William McCaughey said: “There are many, many challenges ahead with regard to health and social care in the Northern Area. We have an ageing population which is going to grow by about 30% within the next five or six years, as well as an increase in long term conditions for many patients.
“We have waiting lists which are getting longer and people will have read the news articles this past week which show some patients are now starting to wait three and four years for various conditions.
“I was contacted this past week and told there were 59 people waiting on beds in Antrim Area Hospital and this is the beginning of the winter season, we’re not in the middle of the winter season. I can only imagine what it’s going to be like over the coming months as the various health conditions do start to increase.”
Larne Lough councillor Gregg McKeen added: “I welcome Council’s decision to seek urgent meetings with senior officials within the Department for Health and the Health and Social Care Board because I am in no doubt that we are in the middle of a health crisis throughout Northern Ireland.
“It is hugely concerning that in Mid and East Antrim, we are performing lower than the Northern Ireland average in key areas like obesity, self-harm and drug related issues, so it is vital that we, as a Council, do all we can to call for improved services and outcomes for all our people.”