Dr Paul Kerr has repeated calls for Northern Ireland political leaders to form an Executive
A leading medic has said Emergency Department waiting times in Northern Ireland have become “an appalling state of affairs”.
Dr Paul Kerr, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, repeated calls for Stormont leaders to form an Executive and help exhausted health workers struggling to meet demand.
His comments follow the latest figures on waiting times from the Department of Health.
It shows that between January to March this year, there were 157,953 attendances at Type 1 A&E services in Northern Ireland, which is back in line with pre-pandemic levels.
Under half (47.3%) of attendances at A&E services were seen and resulted in a subsequent admission, transfer or discharge within four hours.
The Latest Emergency Care waiting times was published this morning by @healthdpt. The interactive statistical bulletin and associated tables are available at:https://t.co/usFjSSSuVn pic.twitter.com/3x2Uix3wLT— NISRA (@NISRA) May 13, 2022
Dr Kerr has said this is “the worst quarterly performance on record”.
He added that it also had the highest number of long waits on record, with 24,304 patients spending 12 hours or more in an A&E department.
In February, 16.3% of attendances spent more than 12 hours in an A&E department, which equates to one in every six patients.
“The Emergency Care system is continuing to deteriorate, and the Emergency Admissions process is in crisis,” Dr Kerr said.
“Emergency Departments and ambulance services are overwhelmed, and this is leading to a patient safety crisis. Patients face long waits for an ambulance, long waits outside an Emergency Department, long waits in an Emergency Department.”
He said patients in a critical condition are not being seen in a timely and effective way, which he called “an appalling state of affairs”.
“This situation is the worst it has ever been. We commend staff for their hard work and resilience during this incredibly tough time.
“All Emergency Medicine staff are working tirelessly to keep patients safe and continue to deliver the best quality care they can. But the current circumstances and challenges mean Emergency Departments will inevitably struggle to provide optimal care.”
He said widespread staffing shortages throughout the health system meant that existing staff are burnt out, exhausted and facing “moral injury and distress daily” which was leading some to consider early retirement or quitting the profession.
On Thursday, the BMA in Northern Ireland, The Royal College of Surgeons of England and The Royal College of General Practitioners issued a statement calling for the formation of a Stormont Executive.
Dr Kerr said the Health Service is now in “freefall” and an Executive would mitigate the crisis and take meaningful action to improve Urgent and Emergency Care and keep patients safe.
“In Emergency Care we must see the recruitment and retention of staff across all grades. It is also vital that more beds are opened to increase flow throughout the hospital. Lastly, good social care underpins an effective health service, it can help free up beds, prevent recurring trips to the Emergency Department, and ensure timely discharge. It is critical that the crisis in social care is addressed as part of any plan to tackle the Urgent and Emergency Care crisis.”