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A&E patients were taken from the Royal Victoria Hospital

A&E patients were taken from the Royal Victoria Hospital

A&E patients were taken from the Royal Victoria Hospital

Patients have been "bussed" between hospitals in Belfast to relieve pressure on accident and emergency units, it has been claimed.

The sick and injured were taken from the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) to the nearby Mater, according to West Belfast MP Paul Maskey.

He said: "It has now reached the stage that patients are being bussed to the Mater hospital in an attempt to relieve the pressure.

"This is not an ideal situation for patients and further highlights the intense pressure our accident and emergency departments are under."

Mr Maskey said he had been contacted by staff and patients from the RVH and is now seeking an urgent meeting with management to discuss the situation.

A spokesman for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said patients who had been assessed by an RVH consultant were offered a choice of being transferred to the Mater to be seen in a considerably shorter time.

Eight people took up the offer and were transferred using a Trust transport accompanied by a member of staff.

In a statement, the Trust said: "In order to provide the best possible services to our patients, some people were assessed by a consultant in RVH and given the choice to be transported to the Mater hospital where they were seen and treated in a considerably shorter time.

"It is right that we use all our resources to ensure our patients are put first each time at all times.

"We can report that no one waited more than 12 hours for admission over the last 24-hour period through to 7am this morning and today we are pleased that both EDs (emergency departments) are reporting extremely short waiting times."

Pressure has been building on the RVH - Northern Ireland's largest hospital - since the temporary closure of the City Hospital's A&E in 2011.

The situation reached crisis point last January when it was forced to declare a major incident because of a backlog of people needing emergency care.

Additional staff were brought in and extra beds opened to deal with the large volume of people waiting on trolleys.

Earlier this week Stormont's Health Minister Jim Wells denied that Musgrave Park Hospital was being used as a holding bay for an overspill of RVH patients.

The DUP minister also revealed there had been an increase in the number of A&E attendances during the last three months of last year.

Mr Wells told the Assembly 56,656 patients were treated by emergency departments, compared to 55,057 in 2013.