UNISON Northern Ireland

UNISON Calls on South Eastern Health Trust to Halt Plans for Emergency Department ‘Phone First’ Service at Lagan Valley Hospital

UNISON, the largest trade union representing healthcare workers in Northern Ireland, can reveal that the South Eastern Health Trust is planning to introduce a ‘Phone First’ system in early October for patients to access A&E services at Lagan Valley Hospital in Lisburn. UNISON is calling on the South Eastern Trust to halt its plans to introduce a ‘Phone First’ system.

To date no details have been provided by the Trust on how the proposed ‘Phone First’ system will operate and the hours and days it will cover. It is expected that anyone seeking to access the A&E at Lagan Valley Hospital will have to phone first for an appointment to attend. Currently Lagan Valley A&E operates from 8am - 8pm Monday to Friday.

The South Eastern Trust claim that the ‘Phone First’ system is a temporary measure to manage increase demand on the service and medical staff shortages.

Commenting on the Trusts plans for a ‘Phone First’ A&E service, UNISON  Regional Organiser, Joe McCusker, said, “ While it is appreciated that there are challenges in A&E at Lagan Valley Hospital, this appears to be an ill-conceived plan by the South Eastern Trust which will have an impact on patients, other overstretched A&E services and the ambulance service. UNISON is not aware of any assessment of risk to the citizens of Lagan Valley if the Phone First plans go ahead, nor has a feasibility study been carried out on the plans.  There has been no public consultation.  The people of Lisburn and Lagan Valley deserve better.” Mr. McCusker adds, “The Trust state that this is a temporary measure, however they have not specified a timeframe. From past experience, when temporary measures are introduced by the Health Service, too often it becomes permanent.”

UNISON Down Lisburn Branch is launching a campaign opposing the South Eastern Trust’s plans for a ‘Phone First’ A&E service, calling for an immediate halt to any moves to introduce the system.  The campaign will involve an on-line petition, lobbying of local MLAs and a leaflet to raise awareness among the public. UNISON Down Lisburn Branch has organised a socially distanced demonstration to take place outside Lagan Valley Hospital on Thursday 16th September from Noon to 2pm.