Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Health service transition requires realistic financing

Standards at the Ulster Hospital are under fire

The thought of having to go into hospital can be daunting. There is no disputing that there are excellent teams of doctors and nurses who work miracles every day across Northern Ireland, including in the Ulster Hospital – but as staff and resources become stretched there does however appear to be an inconsistency in patient experiences.

In 2011 Belfast City Hospital's A&E closed leaving one main emergency department in Belfast, at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

The number of people attending the Ulster Hospital rose by 10,000 a year – it is estimated around 40% of those people will be admitted.

Cracks began to show in the running of the Ulster in January last year when it had to postpone about 30 routine operations a week because of a shortage of beds.

Despite a 9% jump in the number of beds made available, the hospital could not cope with a 22% rise in emergency admissions. Two extra wards were built to cope with the extra demand, and waiting times in certain areas have improved.

However, in January A&E services were also reduced in the Lagan Valley and Downe hospitals.

At the heart of the problems is the rolling out of the Transforming Your Care – the shift to put more emphasis on care within the community.

Health care professionals and staff have agreed change is needed – but millions of pounds are needed to make the transition possible.

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