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A&E waiting times down after Belfast City Hospital unit's closure

By Lisa Smyth

Waiting times at the accident and emergency departments at the Royal Victoria, Ulster and Mater hospitals have improved since the closure of the City Hospital’s casualty unit, it has emerged.

According to provisional unvalidated data released by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, waiting times at the A&Es at the Mater and Ulster hospitals in November improved compared to October.

The number of patients waiting longer than 12 hours at the Royal Victoria Hospital’s emergency department also fell following the closure of the City Hospital A&E.

The figures reveal 3,324 people attended the City Hospital’s A&E in the month before its closure at the beginning of November.

The number of patients who turned up at the Royal’s A&E rose from 6,266 in October to 7,459 in November — but 72% were treated within four hours.

During the same period, attendances at the Ulster Hospital A&E dropped by 12 to 6,349 while at the Mater they rose by 59 to 3,499.

Official statistics on emergency care activity in Northern Ireland for the last three months are not due to be published until January.

As he released the figures, Health Minister Edwin Poots paid tribute to health service staff for ensuring the smooth transfer of services following the controversial closure of the City Hospital A&E.

“It is almost six weeks since the temporary closure of the City’s emergency department and I want to put on record my thanks to the nurses, doctors, paramedics, ancillary workers and administrations teams in not just the Belfast Trust but in others such as the South Eastern, whose dedication has ensured a smooth transition,” he said

“Having visited the Royal and Mater hospitals recently, I am reassured that the transfer of City’s emergency department has progressed smoothly.”

In September, the board of directors at the Belfast Health & Social Care Trust approved a proposal to temporarily close Belfast City Hospital's A&E.

The decision was reached after concerns were raised over patient safety and teaching standards at the unit.

The body responsible for placing medical students in training posts said it was not happy about the supervision of junior doctors working in the A&E. Management also said it could not recruit enough senior doctors.

While health bosses have said the closure is temporary, a review of emergency care is under way and is expected to recommend the changes are implemented on a permanent basis.

Patient numbers: the key figures

40,000: number of patients who attended Accident and Emergency at the City Hospital each year

20,000: number of extra patients the Royal is expecting as a result of the closure

17,000: number of extra patients the Ulster and Mater Hospitals are expected to absorb

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