NHS A&E crisis: Planned surgeries cancelled across Northern Ireland in bid to cope with hospitals' emergency patient surge
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All healthcare trusts in Northern Ireland have been forced to cancel planned surgeries after struggling to cope with the number of patients needing treatment.
Almost a year to the day after a Major Incident was announced at the Royal Victoria Hospital, elective surgeries across Northern Ireland are being called off this week as the pressures built. Some patients may face months of waiting to undergo their operations.
Emergency and cancer operations will not be affected.
It was reported that almost 22,000 people visited emergency departments here in the past 15 days, with 139 of them waiting more than 12 hours to be seen.
The Belfast Trust confirmed emergency departments had experienced extra pressures in recent days and had cancelled all routine surgery until January 10.
"This decision has not been taken lightly and will be kept under review throughout the remainder of the week," a Belfast Trust spokeswoman said.
In the Northern Trust, elective surgery at Antrim has been cancelled until Friday. The Causeway Hospital is unaffected.
The South Eastern Trust has stopped elective surgery until Friday at all its hospitals, while the Western Trust has cancelled elective surgery at Altnagelvin until Friday. The Acute Hospital in Enniskillen is unaffected.
The Southern Trust said a small number of cancellations had taken place, and they were keeping the situation under constant review.
A spokesman for the South Eastern Trust said: "We are experiencing significant pressure at all our emergency departments, and increasing emergency admissions to all our hospitals.
"We are facing particular challenges at the Ulster Hospital emergency department, and would like to remind people to only attend if they are a genuine emergency. Patients may have to wait longer than usual because of the surge in attendances."
On Monday this newspaper revealed how Tommy Hall's 73-year-old mother was placed on a trolley in the waiting room area of the Royal Victoria Hospital A&E and wasn't seen by a doctor for eight hours. Mr Hall claimed at one stage 11 ambulances were queued up outside and described the situation as "chaotic".
Ray Rafferty from trade union Unison said he was concerned about the impact the situation will have on patients and staff.
"I'm very concerned about the pressure and stress staff are under dealing with large number of patients - not enough beds and not enough staff to safely treat patients," he said.