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150 endure a weekend of long waits in clogged A&Es

By Lisa Smyth

Almost 150 people waited longer than 12 hours over the weekend in three of the emergency units struggling to cope after the closure of the casualty at Belfast City Hospital.

The Ulster Hospital in Dundonald, Royal Victoria and Antrim Area hospitals are bearing the brunt of controversial changes to A&E services in the Belfast Health & Social Care Trust last year.

Between last Friday and Monday, 75 people waited longer than 12 hours at the Ulster A&E, 58 spent more than 12 hours in the A&E at the Royal and there were 10 12-hour breaches at Antrim Area Hospital.

On Monday, 25 patients spent more than 12 hours waiting to be admitted to a ward or treated and discharged from the A&E at the Ulster Hospital.

Targets set out by the health minister state that 95% of patients should be treated and discharged or admitted to a ward within four hours and no patient should have to wait longer than 12 hours.

The statistics highlight once again the crisis facing the health service in Northern Ireland — and come just a day after the Belfast Telegraph revealed a leading nursing union has held emergency talks with two health trusts amid concerns for patient safety.

The Royal College of Nursing has had formal talks with bosses at the Northern and Belfast Health & Social Care trusts as conditions continue to deteriorate in some of our busiest A&Es. However, serious concerns have been raised over patient safety at the casualty unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital after reports that an 86-year-old woman spent 34 hours on the trolley in the A&E after suffering a suspected stroke.

And an 86-year-old man broke down and sobbed as he described the chaos in the A&E.

Sue Ramsey, chair of the Stormont health committee, said they have already expressed concern over the issue of waiting times in A&Es.

“In fact we have just written to the Department of Health, Social Services on this and we are awaiting their response,” she said.

“It has become clear, over the past few weeks, that there are real issues in terms of people with urgent conditions not being seen quickly enough and, once seen, being left for hours before being admitted.

“We do not believe that this is good enough. The department and the trusts must ensure that patient services are not compromised and we will be looking at these issues in committee.”

Health bosses have appealed to the public to only use A&E services in the event of an emergency as they try to bring the situation under control.

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