Ulster Unionist Party Health Spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson has said the publication of the latest Accident and Emergency waiting times demonstrate that pressures are continuing to build on hospitals across Northern Ireland. During January 2015, 71.4% of attendances at the main emergency care departments were treated and discharged, or admitted within 4 hours of their arrival, even though the target is 95%. The proportion of people seen or treated on time also decreased from the 73.5% in December last year, despite the overall number of attendances falling by almost 4%.
The Upper Bann MLA said;
“Our health service is under profound pressure with waiting times of all types deteriorating. It is often said that Accident and Emergency Departments are a barometer for the state of the NHS; these latest statistics show the system very much remains in a state of crisis.
“Less than two thirds of people are being seen on time in our key hospitals such as the Royal Victoria and Antrim Area and this presents major challenges as our brilliant healthcare workers struggle to keep the system from failing.
“Over recent months there have been a raft of announcements from the Department and Health Trusts stating that they are closing or downscaling major services. These included closing several Minor Injuries Units, shutting entire wards and radically reducing the number of intermediate or step-down beds. This, along with illogical decisions such as closing the Belfast City Hospital A&E without increasing beds elsewhere, is directly contributing to the bottlenecks currently being experienced. The Department appear ignorant to the impact of these types of decisions and bizarrely look set to make these temporary closures permanent.
“On one hand people are being told only to go to A&Es in genuine emergencies, yet on the other the Department are slashing minor injuries and out of hours services. In addition there still remains huge challenges with GP waiting times, so many people are left feeling they have no choice but to attend their local hospital.
“It is absolutely imperative that the system works as efficiently and smoothly as possible. Along with problems with general practice, if sufficient beds are not available in other parts of the hospital then it leads to beds being blocked at the point of entry. The Department and the Trusts need to realise that unless they get some of the fundamental problems resolved, the crisis in our health service looks set to worsen.”