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Northern Trust apology as 90 cancer patients are left in waiting room

Long delays were reported at Antrim Area Hospital’s Laurel House
Long delays were reported at Antrim Area Hospital’s Laurel House
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

A Health Trust has apologised to patients after reports that over 90 people were crammed into the waiting room of a Co Antrim chemotherapy unit yesterday.

A number of cancer patients were reportedly forced to stand in the waiting area of Antrim Area Hospital's Laurel House as they attended scheduled appointments at a haematology clinic.

Over 90 people were said to be huddled in the waiting room of the health centre as some patients waited at least four hours to see their consultant.

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust said the delays were "not related to the current industrial action" but were actually a "regular occurrence" at the clinic.

Members of Unison and the Royal College of Nursing have been taking industrial action over pay parity with the rest of the UK, staff numbers and patient safety.

A member of the public, who did not wish to be named, contacted the Belfast Telegraph after attending yesterday's clinic and said that the delay was a "disgrace".

The woman added that a number of patients decided to leave due to the long waiting time.

"Patients were standing and there must have been over 90 people," she said. "We're talking about cancer patients here with weakened immune systems.

"With the norovirus and everything that's going about this time of year - to be in that crowded area of people.

"The waiting time went from an hour and 10 minutes to two hours and 30 minutes and it just kept getting longer and longer."

A spokesperson for the Northern Trust said that the haematology clinic always runs at full capacity and that Thursdays are particularly busy days in the unit.

"I can confirm the delay experienced by the patient attending Laurel House today was not related to the current industrial action," they said.

"Haematology clinics require a multi-disciplinary team of medical, pharmacy and nursing staff.

"This morning's [Thursday's] clinic ran behind schedule due to the number of patients attending and the treatments they required and we apologise to any patient who had to endure a long wait.

"Unfortunately, this is a regular occurrence but the Trust is working closely with the Regional Health and Social Care Board to identify additional resources to provide more clinics during the course of the week."

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