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Ambulance queue footage at Northern Ireland A&E highlights concerns over delays for patients

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Ambulances waiting to hand over patients outside Craigavon Area Hospital

Ambulances waiting to hand over patients outside Craigavon Area Hospital

Ambulances waiting to hand over patients outside Craigavon Area Hospital

A video has emerged of seven ambulances queued outside a Northern Ireland hospital waiting to hand over patients, sparking concerns over cover and delays in people getting treatment.

The footage shot outside Craigavon Area Hospital's Accident and Emergency Department last month shows a string of ambulances waiting to transfer patients for treatment.

It comes amid warnings from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) that response times to non-urgent calls are set to be hit by a series of staffing and resourcing pressures.

Crew absences linked to Covid-19 and an increase in assaults on staff were among reasons cited for the impact on cover levels.

The NIAS also said crews were impacted by the pressures experienced by Northern Ireland's five health trusts, stressing that turnaround times were being hit by the reduced space in emergency departments due to social distancing requirements.

DUP South Antrim MLA and vice-chair of Stormont's Health Committee Pam Cameron said she has pressed the Health Minister to ensure "the needs of the Ambulance Service are front and centre as trusts make preparations for the Covid-19 recovery as well as plan for any second surge of the virus".

Mrs Cameron said: As routine demand starts to increase - and social distancing continues to limit capacity and handover times - the stark reality is that operating challenges facing ambulance crews and staff are only set to rise." Alliance Party health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw said the situation is "clearly very concerning".

She added: "It represents the huge challenge we are seeing with the restoration of services after the peak of Covid infections. It also reinforces the need for transformation, including the modernisation of the ambulance service, to proceed swiftly."

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly said: "The video and reports about handover times at Craigavon Hospital are deeply concerning, particularly when ambulance cover has been an issue in local communities during busy weekends."

In response, a NIAS spokesperson said: "These delays in ambulance turnaround times, due in no small measure to reduced space in the emergency departments as a result of social distancing requirements, impact greatly on the number of crews we have available to respond to emergencies.

"NIAS continues to work with colleagues in the Department of Health, Health and Social Care Board and the five hospital trusts to find solutions to these issues."

A Southern Health Trust spokesperson said Craigavon Area Hospital's Emergency Department is "one of the busiest in Northern Ireland" and, following a drop in demand during lockdown, attendances have returned to pre-Covid-19 levels.

Belfast Telegraph