This is a guest post by my friend and colleague Dr Mark Roberts, Consultant in Acute and Geriatric Medicine, and Scottish Patient Safety Programme Fellow. 

If you would like to contact Mark please let me know via the Contact Page or leave your comment below.

In light of Dr Liam Donaldson’s sobering report on the state of the healthcare system in Northern Ireland, a reminder of 10 positive issues relating to health provision in NI seems timely.  They make the swallowing of the 10 point pill prescribed by Dr Donaldson more palatable:

1. We have a joined up Health and Social Care structure –  the envy of other NHS health sectors across the water.  Improving our processes and interrelationships ‘from cradle to grave’ should be easier than for other health systems.

2. We have a refreshing lack of multiple ‘arms length’ HSC bodies – this means the raw ingredients for more meaningful partnerships across HSC Trusts are there.  We need to introduce only a small attitudinal change to each other to release this potential.

3. The Northern Ireland Electronic Care Record – the most widespread, helpful and user friendly clinical information hub the UK and Ireland have on offer.  It reduces duplication of tests and improves the speed and accuracy of clinical decision making.

4. The intellectual calibre of Northern Ireland’s clinical staff is generally of a high standard, with good examples regionally of motivated staff keen to improve care.

5. Our size is small, and distances are manageable:  this helps facilitate positive networks and disseminate good practices.

6. In relative terms, compared to more fragmented societies, social capital within our communities remains strong: an emphasis on the centrality of family and good neighbourliness silently helps our struggling social care system enormously.

7. In the era of the Mid Staffordshire scandal, our overall emphasis on dignity and respect for the individual remains steadfast, even though there have been high profile exceptions.

8. In cultural and organisational terms, our closest comparable healthcare system is the high performing Scottish NHS, feted by respected international bodies including the US based Institute for Healthcare Improvement. The opportunity for cross-pollination to improve our league table position in relation to quality, safety and person-centeredness are too great to miss.

9. The steps between the shop floor of the GP surgery or hospital and our political leaders are not as far apart as for other devolved nations: we can use this to our collective advantage.

10. We’ve had the foresight to get an outside, holistic view of the now and the future: who else has done that?

Photo Credit: roydenhowie via Compfight cc