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RQIA Review of Northern Ireland’s Plastic Surgery Service Published

RQIA has just published the findings of its Review of the Regional Plastic Surgery Service in Northern Ireland.  The plastic surgery service specialises in the repair or reconstruction of missing or damaged tissue and skin, and provides treatment to people of all ages with a wide range of conditions, including cancer, congenital conditions, burns and trauma. 

The review team examined the current context for the plastic surgery service and found dedicated plastic surgery staff working to provide a quality treatment to patients, within the confines of a service with limited capacity.

During the review, we found that the service is unable to meet its targets for urgent referrals, and is not complying with joint orthopaedic – plastic surgery best practice standards.  The review team noted that due to a shortage of trained surgeons, access to microsurgical breast reconstruction is limited.

The commissioning direction for this service was published ten years ago, and since then there has been a significant increase in demand from cancer and trauma cases, impacting on capacity to deliver non-urgent elective cases.  While the South Eastern Trust has overall responsibility for plastic surgery services in Northern Ireland, the service is currently being managed and funded separately across the Belfast and South Eastern trusts.

The review team considers that in the short term Northern Ireland’s plastic surgery service needs assistance to meet increasing demand and improved opportunities for doctors in training in all aspects of plastic surgery.  In the longer term, RQIA calls for a single service, with recurrent funding to employ additional consultant plastic surgeons to meet the increasing demands.  The development and support of strong clinical leadership alongside a clear regional policy direction will also be important to take the service forward, and ensuring a high quality service.

RQIA’s review team makes 10 recommendations to support improvement to take the service forward in the future. 

Read our press release here, and a summary leaflet is also available, highlighting our key findings.