Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland human rights group urges leaders: turn the tide on hospitals chaos

By Lisa Smyth

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has called for action to address the chaos in the health service.

The organisation has hit out at the conditions in accident and emergency departments across Northern Ireland, including examples of seriously ill people enduring days on trolleys waiting for a hospital bed to become free.

And the commission has expressed frustration at a failure to implement any of the recommendations it made following its inquiry into emergency healthcare here more than three years ago.

A spokeswoman said: "Protecting the human rights of vulnerable people could be much better served than is currently the case.The reports of Northern Ireland's current circumstances are the hallmark of regression.

"Political leadership and responsible decision making is urgently needed to turn the tide."

It comes after the Belfast Telegraph revealed the ordeal of a 70-year-old man who spent five days in the emergency department at Antrim Area Hospital after suffering a heart attack on New Year's Day.

His daughter-in-law, Karen Phillips, described how she had watched nurses trying to feed and take blood from patients, and trolleys double parked in the corridors of the unit last week. The current situation comes three years after the commission initiated the first human rights inquiry into healthcare in emergency departments undertaken anywhere in the world.

It found instances where patients did not receive food, water, pain relief or assistance with personal care.

Commenting on the current situation, the spokeswoman continued: "The reported increase in waiting times at both A&E departments and for outpatient appointments is an ongoing concern.

"The commission's inquiry into emergency healthcare reported of circumstances in 2015 where patients did not receive assistance with their personal care needs, had insufficient pain relief and a lack of access to food and fluids. Cases involving end-of-life care, the transfer of older patients from nursing homes to A&E, and the experiences of those presenting in mental health crisis with dementia or disabilities were particularly concerning.

"The commission has recommended the development of dedicated ED minimum care standards rooted in human rights to provide a benchmark for patient experience.

"The commission also highlighted the need for reform across other services that need to work closely with ED services.

"Three years later, there has been no movement toward introducing such standards."

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