Poots eyes hospital discharges move
More needs to be done to free up hospital beds and discharge patients in Northern Ireland quicker, the health minister said.
Edwin Poots has established an action group to reduce waiting times at emergency departments across Northern Ireland.
Mr Poots addressed the Assembly during a debate called following the death of a man on a trolley at the Royal Victoria's A&E after he waited almost 24 hours for a bed.
He said: "We need to have more discharges in the morning, we need to ensure that pharmacies can respond to the need that there is...and we need to ensure that more beds are available.
"If beds are not available, they will unavoidably lead to trolley waits.
"The level of consultant decision-making about this has to be maximised so that we increase the number of day surgeries."
He said less important cases should be seen earlier so that they can be allowed to leave hospital rather than blocking beds.
Mary Hinds, director of nursing at the Public Health Agency, spent six weeks observing how the A&E service is run at the Antrim Area Hospital.
Patients, staff and management were interviewed. Ms Hinds will submit her report to the health minister shortly.
Mr Poots wants to see 95% of patients in A&E departments admitted or discharged within four hours. He will also permit senior nurses to discharge patients at weekends and on public holidays, and allow more people to be let home before lunchtime.