My father-in-law aged 70 was left waiting for five days on trolley in crowded A&E
A pensioner spent five days in a crowded A&E unit waiting for a hospital bed after having a heart attack.
The 70-year-old man from Newtownabbey was rushed by ambulance to Antrim Area Hospital on New Year's Day.
He spent three days on a trolley in the unit before he was moved to a bed in an observation ward in the emergency department on Wednesday, and was finally transferred to the cardiac ward on Friday night.
His ordeal, which included an almost hour-long wait for a doctor when he experienced further chest pains, reveals the very human suffering behind Northern Ireland's crisis-hit NHS.
His daughter-in-law Karen Phillips (50) explained: "When we got there all the chairs in the waiting area were full and there were about 30 or 40 people standing around.
"My father-in-law had been taken through the clinical area, he was on a trolley until Wednesday and it was horrific.
"There were trolleys everywhere, they were double parked, there was no dignity for any of the patients.
"Nurses were taking blood from patients lying on trolleys in corridors, they were feeding patients in the corridors and people were walking past bumping into them.
"One of the nurses was running around looking for a thermometer to be able to take people's temperature.
"We were told he needed a bed but there wasn't one available in Northern Ireland so he would have to wait on a trolley."
Mrs Phillips said it was clear the staff were working in "horrendous" conditions.
She added: "You could see the panic in their faces - it was just sheer panic.
"My father-in-law needed to be isolated and was eventually moved to a side room in the A&E on his own on Wednesday and had started to pick up, but then on Wednesday night he started having chest pains.
"He pressed the call bell but it was 20 minutes before anyone came because they were so busy and then no one could find a doctor because the only one on duty was in the main hospital.
"It took half-an-hour for the doctor to get there.
"The staff are amazing, I'm not criticising them because they are working in the most horrendous conditions and doing everything they can to help the patients.
"My father-in-law knew how busy they were and when he needed to go to the toilet he was unhooking himself from all the machines, including the heart monitor, and going by himself, as he didn't want to bother the nurses.
"Then he was attaching himself back up to the monitors himself.
"No one in there was getting the care they deserved.
"They told my father-in-law he had been given a bed in a side room but if anyone else came in and needed it more, he would have to go back on a trolley, and that could happen at any time.
"However, he was finally admitted to the cardiac ward on Friday night."
Mrs Phillips, who is also from Newtownabbey, said she and her family had been horrified by the scenes of chaos that they witnessed in Antrim's emergency department.
A&Es across Northern Ireland have struggled to cope with the number of patients turning up at their doors over the Christmas period.
A shortage of staff and beds in hospitals has meant patients face lengthy waits before they can finally be admitted to wards.
Mrs Phillips hit out at the political parties for the difficulties being experienced by staff and patients.
"I blame Stormont," she continued.
"I have worked in community care my entire working life and I know a girl who has set up a company that provides domiciliary care, but she can't get a contract because there is no money because Stormont isn't sitting.
"It's mad that she is there, able to help relieve some of the pressure, but because our politicians can't get on, there is no budget to help get patients out of hospital and free up beds.
"I dread to think what would have happened if there had been a major incident in Antrim the other night, there's no way they would have coped.
"The staff are amazing, you couldn't pay them enough for the work they are doing.
"It's time for Stormont to get back and get this mess sorted."
A spokesman from the Northern Trust apologised to patients and families who have been affected by delays.
"In common with emergency departments throughout Northern Ireland, over the Christmas and New Year period, we have seen an increased demand on top of an already very busy system," he said.
"In addition, the level of complex and serious conditions, particularly amongst the growing frail and elderly population and the prevalence of flu and other respiratory conditions at this time of year has meant that some patients have had to wait to be admitted to wards.
"Although that is never a satisfactory position, those patients who are delayed in the emergency department will always have a medical care plan in place.
"We fully understand the upset and inconvenience that the wait for a bed on a ward can cause to patients and their families and we sincerely apologise to them for that."