Councillors voice concerns after health hub plans put on hold

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Concerns about the future of health service provision across Mid Ulster, particularly in the Cookstown and Magherafelt areas, are to be raised with the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health (DoH).

Responding to the “shocking news” that the department has shelved plans for the provision of new health and social care hubs in Cookstown and Magherafelt, members of Mid Ulster District Council are to request an urgent meeting with DoH boss Richard Pengelly.

Cookstown Councillor Trevor Wilson

Cookstown Councillor Trevor Wilson

At their meeting on Thursday night, April 26, elected members agreed a proposal from Cookstown UUP Cllr Trevor Wilson that council representatives should seek to hold talks with department chiefs to discuss concerns about the future of healthcare provision in the region.

“For the last few years, Mid Ulster Council has been working in partnership with our colleagues in the Northern and Southern Trusts and the Health & Social Care Board (HSCB) towards creating a vision for health service provision across Mid Ulster,” Cllr Wilson explained.

“It was hoped that such a partnership approach, encouraged through the Community Planning process, would help ensure that decisions regarding health matters in Mid Ulster would be co-ordinated and taken on a strategic basis and would address the serious levels of disinvestment across the Mid Ulster health estate over the last 20 years.

“However at a recent meeting with a senior official of the Health & Social Care Board, we were informed that business cases for the provision of four medical hubs will be progressed by the department and the Health & Social Care Board. Whilst one of these areas will include Dungannon, which is to be welcomed, the anticipated medical hub for Cookstown, much discussed within the Community Planning process, has apparently been discarded for the next 5-10 years at least. This is shocking news that has appeared completely out of the blue and flies in the face of strategic planning and good practice within the shared Community Planning process.”

It’s understood the plans for a new health hub in Magherafelt have also been out on hold due to current funding constraints.

Cllr Wilson’s proposal that the council seek an urgent meeting with the Permanent Secretary of the DoH “with a view to discussing the department and the Board’s long awaited vision for health service provision across Mid Ulster, and more specifically the short to medium health hub plans for Cookstown and Magherafelt”, received unanimous backing from members.

Responding to the concerns raised by Cllr Wilson and his colleagues, a spokesman for the Department of Health said plans for health hubs in Cookstown and Magherafelt “will be reviewed in due course”.

“The HSCB has drawn up a primary care infrastructure plan that envisages the need for a further 28 health and social care centres (hubs) across the province, including one in each of the Cookstown and Magherafelt areas. However, the delivery of this plan is subject to confirmation of funding,” he said.

“In recognition of the need to have business cases ready to enable us to avail of funding should it become available the HSCB has agreed that business cases will be developed for five further health and social care centres.

“Plans for new hubs in Cookstown and Magherafelt will be reviewed in due course and all of this of course remains subject to the approval of an incoming Health Minister and confirmation of the funding envelope available to the department.”