A lead consultant who resigned from a top post at the Royal Victoria Hospital's emergency department quit due to concerns over "system failures" that led to overcrowding in the A&E unit, it can be revealed.
Dr Sinead Campbell-Gray left her role as clinical lead for emergency medicine at the department this week.
In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph on Thursday, the Belfast Trust said that Dr Campbell-Gray – who had been in the senior post since February 2013 – had left for "personal reasons".
However, a senior source has claimed the real reason for the resignation was that safety issues in the RVH "as a whole have not been addressed". "This was not due to personal reasons," they said.
"It was due to the failure by the trust to deal with ongoing long trolley waits that could increase risk to both patient and staff safety in the department.
"She feels strongly about ongoing concerns regarding systems failures in the RVH which results in the overcrowding."
Despite resigning she will remain as a senior consultant, but her move will result in a pay cut.
And in an updated statement last night, the trust clarified that she resigned "from one aspect of her post – that of clinical lead for emergency medicine in the Royal Victoria Hospital".
In January Health Minister Edwin Poots publicly criticised the Belfast Trust for its failure to plan to cope with pressures in its emergency department.
At one stage 42 people were waiting on trolleys and staff described the situation as "horrendous".
The source added: "Dr Campbell-Gray felt that her position was untenable because she felt so strongly about ongoing concerns regarding safety issues in the Royal Hospital as a whole that have not been addressed despite the ongoing crisis."
The trust spokeswoman added Dr Campbell-Gray remained "a very valued emergency medicine consultant".
"There are significant challenges in delivering effective emergency department services in Belfast – all of which have been fully-aired over recent months."
Her resignation comes as fresh concerns have been raised over staffing levels at the A&E over the Twelfth weekend.
One member of staff, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Belfast Telegraph: "We don't have a skeleton staff in the Royal never mind extra staff."
A spokeswoman for the trust said: "The normal contingency plans are in place for a bank holiday weekend."