Poots introduces measures to monitor the Belfast Trust

Edwin Poots has announced new measures Edwin Poots has announced new measures

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Northern Ireland's Health Minister Edwin Poots is to introduce special measures to monitor the Belfast Trust to ensure an improvement in services.

It followed a meeting with the chief executive and chairman of the trust to discuss a report on the pseudomonas outbreak and the recent crisis at the accident and emergency department of the Royal Victoria Hospital.

The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) is investigating four pseudomonas deaths at hospitals in Belfast and Londonderry.

The new measures announced on Thursday will mean enhanced oversight arrangements between the health department and the Belfast Trust, to focus on areas such as quality of service provision and patient experience.

Mr Poots said: "I have expressed my deep disappointment to the trust and informed them that I fully expect that these measures must bring about an improvement.

"It is important the Belfast Trust has my full confidence and that of the public," he said.

Mr Poots said the trust would be asked to draw up an action plan "specifically focussed on those areas where I have been concerned".

Report findings

  • Outbreaks linked to contaminated tap water
  • It was most likely spread through tap water used during nappy changes and to defrost milk
  • There were delays in sharing information between trusts
  • There was no agreed approach for declaring outbreaks
  • In future, vulnerable babies should only come in contact with sterile water

"I will expect the trust to report on progress against this plan regularly to my department. This will include the implementation of recommendations emanating from the interim report of the Independent Review of Incidents of Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Infection in Neonatal units in Northern Ireland."

The trust's chief executive, Colm Donaghy, said Mr Poots had not lost confidence in them.

"I think that what he said in his statement was that he wants to have confidence in the trust," he said.

"If we need to demonstrate that to him by working more closely with the department, I'm happy to do that."

Concerns

Patricia McKeown of Unison said the special measures were "an indictment of the entire governance structure of the NHS in Northern Ireland".

"Unison has consistently warned three successive health ministers over a six-year period that the hasty reorganisation of our health service was not fit for purpose," she said.

"The moment the five 'super trusts' were created, proper management accountability and control over our hospitals and social services disappeared. No one was left 'in charge'."

She said it had "taken tragedies to provoke a ministerial reaction" but the union was "concerned that what he has put in place will not solve the problems".

The review said the Belfast Health Trust should have declared the pseudomonas outbreak sooner, and criticised a lack of communication between health officials.

The review team also found there was no common approach across neonatal units for declaring an outbreak.

The independent review team, led by Prof Pat Troop, concluded that the bug was linked to water from contaminated taps in neonatal units.

They found that a lack of co-ordination between staff in health trusts during the outbreak may have impacted on how decisions were made.

The team said it believed the most likely way the bug spread to babies was the use of tap water in washing during nappy changes.

It has recommended that in future only sterile water is used for washing babies in neonatal units.

The review also said that a nurse reported a leaking roof in the Royal Jubilee Maternity's neonatal unit six days after a baby was diagnosed with pseudomonas.

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