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NI emergency departments under extreme pressure with ‘unprecedented’ numbers in Western Trust


Altnagelvin Hospital is one of those under pressure. Photo: Martin McKeown.

Altnagelvin Hospital is one of those under pressure. Photo: Martin McKeown.

Altnagelvin Hospital is one of those under pressure. Photo: Martin McKeown.

Two Northern Ireland health trusts have alerted the public to “extremely busy” emergency departments.

Altnagelvin emergency department (ED) is under pressure to deliver an effective service in an already stretched system, with 77 people in ED and 35 awaiting admission on Wednesday.

The Trust said there was no particular reason for the high numbers, that it was down to a mixture of conditions and the acuity of patients.

A spokesperson explained: “The level of patients being accommodated within the ED are unprecedented.

"Patients are waiting longer to be seen, treated and admitted to a hospital bed or discharged home.

“There continues to be delays to discharging patients within the Hospital. This means that there are fewer beds to admit patients into and patients that require admission are waiting longer in the Emergency Department for admission.”

Patients and their families/carers were encouraged to make an “important difference” by working with the hospital as they plan to discharge someone when they are medically fit.

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"An unnecessary or prolonged hospital stay can be detrimental as patients may develop infections which can have a significant impact on long-term recovery,” a Western Trust spokesperson said.

“This is vitally important to ensure we can admit and treat other patients as soon as possible. We urge the assistance of families and carers in expediting discharge when possible.”

The Phone First service runs from 8am to 12 midnight – seven days per week.

The service aims to ensure that patients can get direct access to the right care, avoiding busy waiting rooms and staying safe.

Phone First is designed for patients, including children, who are feeling unwell and considering travelling to an ED or Minor Injuries Unit with an injury or illness which requires urgent treatment but is not immediately life threatening.

When people call Phone First their condition, or that of the person they are calling on behalf of, will be clinically assessed and arrangements made for access to the most appropriate service.

At present units in the Western Trust are only offering booked appointments for minor injuries in adults.

For life-threatening, medical or mental health emergencies, the public have been advised to call 999 immediately or proceed straight to their nearest ED.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said that as of 4.30pm it has no ambulances queuing at Altnagelvin and have a number of resources available to respond to emergencies in the Western Trust Area.

Meanwhile, earlier on Wednesday, the Northern Trust took to social media to inform the public that Antrim & Causeway Hospitals are extremely busy.

They had 66 patients awaiting beds.

A spokesperson added: “If you require treatment for a minor injury and can choose the Mid Ulster Minor Injury Unit in Magherafelt please do so.

“The unit will be open until 5pm. We apologise for the long waits.”

The Northern Trust has now said that it is managing the situation at the moment and keeping it under review.

The Western has been contacted for further information.

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