The Patient and Client Council is concerned at the marked decline in performance regarding waiting times in emergency departments, especially at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. Behind these statistics are many worried patients and families.
Patients with long-term conditions who are known to the service and become ill as a result of their condition should not have to wait for hours in an emergency department but must be admitted quickly to the department most familiar with their condition.
We have been calling for a whole system review. There is a need for a more joined-up approach between GPs, out-of-hours services, minor injury units and emergency departments. Patients here do not have the alternatives which are available in the rest of the UK such as 24-hour walk-in centres, NHS Choices and NHS 24; we need similar services here in Northern Ireland.
We support people to make a complaint about health and social care. The number of people contacting the council for help has increased markedly in recent months. Pressure on emergency departments and the impact of this on waiting times for patients has been widely reported throughout 2013/14.
In relation to waiting times, the degree of pain, distress and discomfort clients experienced while waiting was an important factor in these complaints. Diagnosis was another common aspect of complaints about A&E; in several cases clients said that they suffered ongoing pain and illness due to inadequate, delayed or lack of diagnosis. In complaints which identified staff attitude as a cause, clients frequently mentioned uncaring, dismissive or impatient staff who were unresponsive to requests.
The environment of the emergency department is an important underlying theme. For example, some of our clients described the emergency department as a chaotic place.
If people would like support to raise a concern or make a complaint they can contact us on, tel: 0800 917 0222.
Louise Skelly is head of operations with the Patient and Client Council