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Apology after hundreds of patients faced 12-hour waits at Northern Ireland emergency departments over Christmas

An apology has been issued after hundreds of patients across Northern Ireland's emergency departments faced waiting times of more than 12 hours over the Christmas period.

From Christmas Eve to January 2 a total of 462 patients had to wait at least 12 hours to be admitted, discharged or transferred.

The figures were obtained by the BBC from the Health and Social Care Board.

The pressure was felt most in Antrim Area Hospital where 165 patients faced at least 12 hours before receiving treatment.

Meanwhile a 'major incident' was declared at Altnagelvin Hospital on Monday, January 2 with staff saying they were under "tremendous pressure".

The Western Health Trust said the incident was "stood down" within hours but staff described the situation as being at "breaking point".

Director of Performance at the Health and Social Care Board, Michael Bloomfield apologised to the patients who were impacted.

He told the BBC: "Typically about half of one percent of people over the year wait longer than 12 hours.

"Over this last week it's been more two to three percent.

"That is high and to those patients we apologise for the inconvenience and distress they experienced."

He added: "But we do need to set it in context. There are very many patients being seen every day quickly and all are receiving excellent care."

The hospital which had the fewest waits was the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine with nine cases.

At the Ulster Hospital 94 patients experienced long waiting times and at Craigavon Area Hospital there were 60 affected.

Thirty-three patients faced long waits in Altnagelvin Hospital and in the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen.

In Belfast, 28 patients faced a 12-hour wait at the Royal Victoria Hospital and 24 others faced a wait in the Mater Hospital.

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