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Royal College of Surgeons of England response to ‘Review of General Surgery

30 Jun 2022

Surgeons responded today to a new report from Northern Ireland’s Department of Health. Launched by the Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann and Consultant Surgeon Professor Mark Taylor, the report is aimed at changing the delivery of general surgery services in Northern Ireland.

The report sets out a series of standards that hospitals will be required to meet in order to continue providing emergency and planned (elective) general surgery. Emergency surgical services are currently provided at seven hospital sites across NI. The Review of General Surgery sets the benchmark of standards for how hospitals should deliver this service moving forward.

Responding to the reportconsultant surgeon Mr Gary Spence, member of the Northern Ireland Board of RCS England said:

“This review is welcome and signals a step change in the future of sustainable general surgery services in Northern Ireland and indeed will shape the conversation on wider service redesign of our hospital blueprint. It builds on our position that we must move towards effective surgical sites that ensure that general surgery, both emergency and elective, can be provided safely and sustainably.

“We very much welcome plans to establish Elective Overnight Stay Centres across NI which will facilitate planned procedures for high volume, intermediate complexity cases where at least one night in hospital is required. The Mater Hospital is the first of these sites and now adds to NI’s surgical hub community of staff and services already working away at Lagan Valley and Omagh.”

The evidence base for the Review of General Surgery was established with reference to guidance from the Royal Colleges, Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (ASGBI), CEPOD, Nuffield Trust and NHS organisations including Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT), regulatory bodies and benchmarking programmes. The evidence based standards for both emergency and elective general surgery have been developed and refined with input from all general surgeons in Northern Ireland, other clinicians, HSC Trusts, managers and service users.  The review also calls for the creation of a general surgical network to ensure that no matter where one lives in Northern Ireland they will have equal access to high quality care both in the emergency setting and in the elective setting.

Mr Gary Spence added:
“We know that regionally there are variations in practice and in waiting times across the region and, specific issues relating to emergency general surgery across multiple sites and the difficulties this creates in terms of staffing and meeting patient needs. We look forward to the next phase of this report and implementation of the evidenced based standards of care and actions. We need to unlock NI’s potential in meeting the demand posed by the waiting lists and in trying to make sure we reduce those levels not just in the short term but long term too.”



Notes to editors

1)The Review of General Surgery is available here:

2)The health minister’s written statement is here:

3)Mr Gary Spence is professional advisor on general surgery on the RCS England Northern Ireland Board.  He is also the Northern Ireland representative of the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (ASGBI) and Association of Upper Gastro-Intestinal Surgery of Great Britain and Ireland (AUGIS).

4)The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS England) is a professional membership organisation and registered charity. The College provides world-class education, assessment and development to more than 28,000 surgeons, dental professionals and members of the wider surgical and dental care teams, at all stages of their career. The College sets professional standards, facilitates research and champions the best outcomes for patients – with a vision to see excellent surgical care for everyone.

For more information, please contact the Press Office:

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