Almost 1,000 people waited longer than 12 hours in A&Es at two of Northern Ireland’s major hospitals over a three-month period, shock new figures have revealed.
Latest official statistics have confirmed concerns that the emergency departments at Antrim Area and Ulster hospitals struggled to cope over the Christmas period.
They show that no A&E met the ministerial target that no patient should wait longer than 12 hours for treatment in an A&E in Northern Ireland between October and December last year.
The Ulster and Antrim Area hospitals were the worst performers with 554 and 496 12-hour breaches respectively over the three-month period.
At the Causeway Hospital A&E in Coleraine, 129 patients waited longer than 12 hours to be treated and discharged or admitted between October and December.
The figures highlight the problems facing the Northern Health & Social Care Trust which hit the headlines earlier this month when the Belfast Telegraph revealed serious concerns over capacity.
The chief executive of the trust contacted GPs asking them not to refer any patients to either A&E at Antrim or Causeway hospitals as a result of increased pressures.
Meanwhile, the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust, which manages the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald, has reduced the number of planned surgical procedures being carried out to relieve pressures on beds.
Earlier this week Health Minister Edwin Poots announced a £7m cash boost to help address winter pressures in our hospitals.
The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has received £10m additional funding from Finance Minister Sammy Wilson.
Mr Poots said he will use most of the money to “address additional demand on emergency departments and other acute health services as a result of winter and unscheduled care pressures”.
The A&Es at the Ulster and Antrim Area hospitals have struggling to cope with demand in recent years for a number of reasons.
Health professionals believe the closure of the A&Es at Whiteabbey and Mid Ulster have contributed to the difficulties at Antrim Area Hospital.
Number of patients waiting over 12 hours:
Antrim Area Hospital:
October — 122
November — 183
December — 191
October — 32
November — 36
October — 135
November — 133
December — 286