Health bosses say they are 'committed to an acute hospital with an emergency department' at Causeway

A health Chief Executive has said that the Northern Trust is committed to ‘an acute hospital with an emergency department’ at Coleraine’s Causeway Hospital.
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Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Councillors received a deputation from Northern Health and Social Care Trust at a full council meeting on Tuesday, February 6.

The Trust’s Chief Executive, Jennifer Welsh, first updated councillors on the hospital’s maternity services, following the Trust’s decision to move all hospital births to Antrim Area Hospital beginning last summer.

NHSCT published a review in October last year, which looked at the first two months of the consolidated service.

Chief Executive of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, Jennifer Walsh. Credit NHSCTChief Executive of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, Jennifer Walsh. Credit NHSCT
Chief Executive of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, Jennifer Walsh. Credit NHSCT

Mrs Welsh said the review, of the consolidated service’s first two months, found the change “had been made safely” and that the expanded capacity plan for Antrim maternity unit had been delivered “with no adverse outcomes for women using the service”.

“We have also increased the number of antenatal and postnatal services provided in Causeway,” she added, “reducing the number of local women having to make repeated trips to Antrim before and after the birth of their baby.”

Looking towards the hospital’s future, Mrs Welsh conceded that there was “a lot of noise, and perhaps some doom and gloom”, due to the changes in maternity services.

She added: “Many people are, understandably, asking what the future is for the site, if there’s a plan to downgrade Causeway to a cottage hospital, and are we committed to an acute hospital with an emergency department?”

“So let me be very clear; the answer to that last question is “yes”.

“Causeway Hospital is and will remain an important part or our acute hospital network, and will continue to play an important role in the health of the local population.”

Mrs Welsh said the area had “one of the oldest populations in Northern Ireland”, with the number of over-65s projected to increase by 40% over the next 20 years. This will require services to focus on an “increasingly frail, older population”.

“We all know we’re in a period of very challenging financial constraints,” she added. “But that doesn’t mean we’re proposing to cut services to save money.”

“It means we need to make sure we’re delivering value with the resources we have and not trying to provide services in an unsustainable way.”

In the last 18 months, the Causeway Hospital has had £1.8m of investment for urgent care, £1.2m for solar energy, £1m for a new CT scanner, with plans to add an MRI scanner by early 2025.

“We are also restating our commitment to a 24/7 emergency department and acute inpatient services,” Mrs Welsh said. “It’s important for our staff and community to reiterate this point. Causeway is, and will remain, an acute hospital with services for adults and children.

“Same-day emergency care allows for patients to receive medical care without going through an emergency department or spending night in hospital. In Causeway, the recently-received £1.8m in investment will be used to develop urgent pathways, and we plan to create a bigger space and a wider range of specialist services.

“Our ambition is to see Causeway operate as an elective hub for the north west, delivering services to patients from outside its natural catchment area.”