June 12, 2012

Exploring the potential for cross-border hospital services in the border region

This project led to the publication of two reports on how cross-border hospital services might help to provide  mutual benefits for the people of the Irish order region.

The first of these, carried out by CCBS Deputy Director Ruth Taillon, was published in October 2010 under the title Exploring the Potential for Cross-Border Hospital Services in the Irish Border Region: The role of community involvement in planning hospital services

This report featured feedback from 11 focus groups in the border region and a range of patients and medical professionals. Case studies of service users and campaigning community groups in three areas were undertaken: cancer care in the North-West; cystic fibrosis in the two jurisdictions; and the campaign for a hospital in Omagh. Among the recommendations were that Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) concepts in hospital planning should be properly implemented; service users from both jurisdictions should be involved in the planning of new services at Altnagelvin (Derry/Londonderry) and Enniskillen hospitals; and service users should have full information about their entitlement to services in the other jurisdiction.

The second report was Unlocking the Potential of Cross-border Hospital Planning on the Island of Ireland: A Prototype Modelling Framework, by Shane McQuillan and Vanya Sargent of the Dublin consultancy firm Horwath Bastow Charleton. This report was launched in Belfast on 15 December 2011 (at a North South Research Forum meeting) by Tom Daly, Director General of Cooperation and Working Together (CAWT) and Dean Sullivan, Director of Planning and Performance at the Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

The report concluded that while there are significant barriers to the development of cross-border acute healthcare, these can be ‘worked around’ where it makes sense for  improved patient services to do so. The study analysed five sample clinical service areas where there is potential for cross-border collaboration: orthopaedic surgery, ENT surgery, paediatric cardiac surgery, cystic fibrosis and acute mental health services. It also produced a prototype modelling framework for cross-border acute healthcare services, incorporating both qualitative and quantitative factors, to help plan the development of such services. The report also noted that the new South West Acute hospital in Enniskillen offered a ‘significant opportunity’ for cross-border service provision.

The report was published in the same week as the Compton Review into health and social care in Northern Ireland, which suggested a number of cross-border initiatives, including specialist paediatric services to be provided to Northern patients by Southern hospitals, and patients from the South, particularly along the border, being treated for some cancers in Northern hospitals.

Both these reports are available on  the Centre’s website (www.crossborder.ie).

The Steering Group for this project brought together health and cross-border cooperation specialists together from the Institute of Public Health in Ireland, the Health Research Board (RoI), the Health Service Executive (RoI)(observer), Cooperation and Working Together (CAWT), the Irish Patients Association, the Patient Client Council (NI), the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs (observer), the Centre for Cross Border Studies and the University of Warwick.