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Irish policy document on trauma networks due to be completed early next year

It could be 10 years or more before a trauma network is fully established in Ireland, according to a leading professor who has helped to establish trauma networks in Australia and Qatar.

Prof Peter Cameron, visiting professor at the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) in Qatar and Academic Director at the Emergency Trauma Centre, Alfred Hospital, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, told the Medical Independent (MI) that setting up trauma infrastructure could be problematic. He said that in his experience, it takes about 10 years or more to fully establish a well-run trauma network.

An Irish policy on trauma networks is due to be completed by the end of the first quarter of next year.

Dr Gerry McCarthy, Clinical Lead with the HSE Emergency Medicine Programme and member of the steering group charged with producing the policy, said work is progressing following a public consultation process.

He outlined that trauma networks had been developed in the UK in the last five years and have been shown to reduce the risk of mortality by 30 per cent and to significantly reduce morbidity.

The future development of a trauma network in Ireland was highlighted in a series of presentations at the IAEM Annual Scientific Meeting. Presentations on established trauma networks in the UK, Australia and Qatar were made at the meeting.

“It’s quite clear. Any place in the world that has set up a trauma network, which doesn’t involve every case of trauma going to the big hospitals, but does involve properly triaged people, the ones who clearly have a life-threatening injury or who appear to have a life threatening injury… they would be brought, preferentially, to the major trauma centre,” Dr McCarthy told MI.

“Each time there is a systematic approach to trauma network development, it has been clearly shown to improve mortality outcomes… and significantly reduce morbidity.”

Proper triage by advanced paramedics would identify patients who need to be treated in major trauma centres, he said.

Dr McCarthy advised that patients located more than 45-to-60 minutes from a major trauma centre should stop at a trauma unit along the way for assessment.

Prof Keith Willett, who was involved in the development of the UK trauma system, delivered a presentation at the meeting about his work in this regard. Prof Willett is an external advisor to the steering group set up to deliver a policy document on trauma networks in Ireland.

Meanwhile, Prof Cameron explained in his presentation on trauma networks in Australia and Qatar that governance and data are essential components to any successful network.

In Qatar, a national trauma registry is now in place and overall mortality is decreasing. Work is ongoing in developing the Emergency and Trauma Department at Hamad General Hospital, the only level one trauma centre in Qatar.

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