Sir Liam Donaldson to head health service investigation

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Health Minister Edwin Poots announced that the former chief medical officer of England, Sir Liam Donaldson, was to head a group of experts to consider improvements to the way the health service is run in Northern Ireland, on 8 April 2014.

Mr Poots said he wanted to see "if a step-change improvement in the quality of governance arrangements across the HSC (health and social care) is needed".

The expert group would focus on the effectiveness of arrangements within the HSC trusts, the HSC Board and the Public Health Agency.

The minister said he hoped Sir Liam would report back by the end of the year.

Mr Poots listed specific actions to be taken to address problems at the Northern and Belfast trusts.

He said an improvement plan to be adopted by the Belfast Trust would improve the situation for accident and emergency patients at the Royal Victoria Hospital but there could be no guarantee that the accepted "diagnostic timescales" would be met at all times.

"This is due to the inability to fill medical posts," the minister said.

Health Committee chairwoman Maeve McLaughlin of Sinn Fein said there was "little new" in the statement and that the Donaldson announcement was "just another review".

The minister said Ms McLaughlin "must have been sleeping" during his statement and recited a list of actions to be taken by the trusts.

Jim Wells of the DUP congratulated the minister on obtaining the services of Sir Liam Donaldson, but Fearghal McKinney of the SDLP saw the investigation as an example of "the health service investigating itself".

Ulster Unionist Roy Beggs said the minister's statement "regurgitates much that has been said before".

Kieran McCarthy of Alliance suggested that Mr Poots appeared "tired", "disillusioned" and "fed-up".

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