Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's A&E wait times 'unacceptable'

By Patrice Dougan

Health Minister Edwin Poots has slammed the length of time patients are waiting for treatment at Antrim Area Hospital as "unacceptable".

The standard of care at the hospital has fallen under the spotlight after recent reports of eight-hour trolley waits and a lack of beds.

Now, Antrim Borough Council is asking the public and staff to describe their experiences.

But the minister, as well as the chief executive of the Northern Trust, defended the hospital and its staff yesterday.

Mr Poots said the facility was "fit for purpose" and "people will be treated well" there, but admitted more work needed to be done to improve care.

"The waiting times in the A&E are not acceptable and there is a course of work as to how we can improve that, and we would expect that to be happening and to see these improvements over the next period of time," he said. Northern Trust chief executive Sean Donaghy said his staff would be taking any feedback from patients very seriously.

"I am very concerned that people will feel they do not have the confidence to come to Antrim for urgent medical conditions, and the reassurance I want to offer is that everyone who arrives in Antrim Hospital will be seen by a senior nurse and will be treated by a senior doctor and will have a clear care plan in place," he said.

The problems have been linked to the closure of the Whiteabbey and Mid Ulster hospitals putting added strain on the resources at Antrim Area.

"We have an A&E department that was not designed for the number of people who are coming there for service," said Mr Donaghy.

An extension to the A&E unit at Antrim is currently under way, and is due to be completed by the summer of 2013.

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