Doctor shortage poses threat to A&E
A critical shortage of doctors is threatening emergency departments in two hospitals in Northern Ireland ahead of Christmas.
Difficulties attracting locum temporary doctors have worsened at the Lagan Valley in Lisburn and the Downe in Downpatrick, particularly at weekends, said a spokeswoman for the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust.
A decision on future steps to safeguard services is expected to be taken in the next few days.
The spokeswoman said: " The South Eastern Trust is experiencing a critical shortage of medical staff in both the Downe and Lagan Valley emergency departments and it is reviewing a range of options for continued provision of emergency care services with the objective of maintaining the emergency departments at both sites.
"This is a regrettable set of circumstances and the trust is pursuing every opportunity to minimise service disruption to our patients at this time."
The problem is primarily in a lack of middle-ranking doctors, which has become steadily more acute over recent months.
More medics are expected to leave in the New Year and it is becoming harder to find locums to prop up services.