Ulster Unionist Party Health Spokesperson, Roy Beggs, has warned that lives are increasingly being placed at risk as pressure continues to build across some of Northern Ireland’s busiest accident and emergency departments. His warning came after the Assembly discussed the crisis conditions which are currently being experienced in Craigavon Area Hospital and Belfast Royal Victoria Hospital.
The East Antrim MLA said;
“For some time now our A&E waiting times have been at levels unacceptable to the rest of the UK. Whilst Northern Ireland has a target to treat 95% of patients attending emergency departments within 4 hours, the most recent figures show that the proportion of people either being treated and discharged home or admitted in the last quarter continued to fall from 77.5% to 72.5%. The overall waiting times for the last three years show there has been a continual year-on-year decline.
“The human impact of these delays is that more and more people are lying in trolleys for even longer periods of time.
“Not only is the 4 hour target being utterly missed, but so too is the target to treat 100% of people within 12 hours. There were 166 cases alone in December 2013 of patients waiting longer than 12 hours for treatment. This is unacceptable.
“Even more shockingly, however, there were 620 incidents in 2013 of people having to wait for more than 24 hours in our emergency departments. These trolley waits add risks to patients and staff and this is inexcusable.
“Over recent weeks the problems in our emergency departments have been particularly felt in the Royal Victoria and Craigavon Area hospitals. These problems will now only be further compounded by the deeply regrettable decision to reduce the A&E services within the Downe and Lagan Valley Hospitals.
“During the course of the Assembly debate on the crisis within our A&Es the Minister finally acknowledged that the 2011-2015 budget settlement was inadequate as he seeks further resources in the forthcoming spending review period.
“The Ulster Unionist Party had warned about a lack of health resources so it is unfortunate that it has taken so long for the Health Minister to publically acknowledge the financial pressures within the health service. We hope that additional resources will now be provided for our already overburdened health service staff.”