Ulster Unionist Party Health Spokesperson, Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, has said the publication of the latest annual A&E waiting times reveals the gravity of the situation facing the health service. During 2014/15 only 73.8% of people attending at the main emergency care departments were treated and discharged, or admitted within 4 hours of their arrival, despite the target being 95%.
The Upper Bann MLA said:
“It is often said that how our A&Es are performing is a barometer for the wider state of the NHS. Last year’s performance, which was a further deterioration on the year before, demonstrates that the crisis facing our hospitals is continuing to deepen.
“This gridlock is not only bad for our hospitals and staff, but it’s bad for the health of patients. Delays in receiving treatment can often lead to conditions worsening and I am often told by medical practioners that hospitals are not always a safe place for patients if they do not absolutely need to be there.
“It is essential that our A&E departments are operating efficiently, seeing people on time and avoiding unnecessary delays. When A&Es are full or gridlocked it instantly has a knock-on impact on other hospital admissions and ambulance turn-around times.
“Unless the Health Minister is prepared to accept the scale of the problem and recognise that the numbers of emergency medicine specialist staff working in A&E departments remains insufficient, the problem will remain. It is clear that a revised workforce planning structure is required to ensure that every acute hospital maintains safe and sustainable staffing levels.
“Patients should always remain at the centre of our health service. Unfortunately however the Department is going the opposite direction by making ludicrous decisions such as closing Minor Injuries Units and slashing intermediate beds, such as those in Bangor Community Hospital.
“In addition investing in our primary care – the very cornerstone of our local health service – has stalled and we are now regressing in the numbers of GPs and the length of time people must wait before seeing them. This is not the type of coordinated or integrated service Northern Ireland deserves.”