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Patient's 60-hour hold-up in Antrim A&E a 'harsh reminder' of our hospitals crisis


The Emergency Department

The Emergency Department

The Emergency Department

A patient waited 60 hours in the casualty unit of a Northern Ireland hospital in another shocking example of the crisis facing our health service.

The delay - equivalent to two-and-a-half days - was at Antrim Area Hospital in December.

It has been described by South Antrim MLA John Blair as a "stark reminder" for politicians to address the health crisis.

Details emerged as the Northern Health Trust released details of the longest waits in each month of 2019.

The figures show:

• Delays of up to 54 hours were recorded last February; 51 hours in October and 50 hours in April.

• In December, when pressures were at their highest, a total of 801 patients waited more than 12 hours in the emergency department (ED) at Antrim Hospital.

• Last January, 662 patients had to wait over 12 hours; 603 in February and 589 in November.

• The longest wait in the ED at Causeway Hospital in Coleraine was 53 hours in December.

Mr Blair said the 60-hour wait highlights the serious issues facing the NHS. "These stories, which we see all too regularly, are for all of us who serve the public harsh reminders of the seriousness of this situation," said the Alliance MLA.

"All of us have to work together to try and resolve these issues. I take comfort in the fact that all parties have agreed to work with the new Health Minister in our restored Executive to prioritise health matters and not to play politics in health matters."

Official figures show Northern Ireland's waiting lists are continuing to grow. The latest statistics, published last week, revealed the number of people waiting more than 12 hours in EDs has more than doubled in a year.

In December 2019, 64,872 people attended EDs in Northern Ireland. In the same month the number waiting for more than 12 hours was 5,280 - up from 1,991 in December 2018, and making up 8.1% of total attendances.

This falls short of the Government target not to have any patient waiting longer than 12 hours in any ED.

Health Minister Robin Swann said the figures are "simply not good enough", and the people of Northern Ireland "deserve better". Giving evidence to the health committee last Thursday, the Department of Health's top official, permanent secretary Richard Pengelly, said if all the money in the world was made available to the department today, it still could not clear waiting lists overnight. He said this is because of a "serious capacity issue".

A spokesperson for the Northern Trust said: "We acknowledge that the waiting times in our Emergency Departments are longer than we would wish for our patients and we apologise to anyone who has experienced a long wait in any of our hospitals.

"Over the last six months of 2019 we saw increased levels of pressure on our hospital sites: a 7% increase in ED attendances compared to last year and a 10% increase in patients over the age of 75. Nevertheless we maintained steady four-hour performance on both sites and actually delivered an improvement in Antrim in December when pressures were at their highest.

"Also in January both sites have improved performance against the four-hour target: Causeway 71% last year to 73% this year, and Antrim from 58% to 66%.

"Patients who are delayed over 12 hours in our Emergency Departments will have been assessed and treated, will have a medical plan in place and will be waiting for hospital admission or transfer.

"Both of our hospitals operate at high occupancy levels, therefore bed capacity within hospitals is dependent upon discharging patients appropriately when they no longer require hospital-led care."

Belfast Telegraph