Public to have their say as health experts probe way forward for Northern Ireland emergency units
Members of the public are to have their say on a review of Northern Ireland's urgent and emergency care system.
The Department of Health has also called a summit to tackle the pressures on emergency departments and find a new regional model of care for the province.
The public consultation will be launched later this year.
The summit and public consultation are key stages in the review of urgent and emergency care announced by the Department last November.
As well as A&E care, it will consider GP out of hours provision and minor injuries units.
The review is led by Dr John Maxwell, emergency department consultant at the Royal Victoria and Mater Hospitals, with the summit planned for June.
In October 2016, then Health Minister Michelle O'Neill unveiled the Bengoa Report, a 10-year action plan on health care transformation in Northern Ireland. It identified urgent and emergency care as one of the specialties "in most need of reform".
The summit will bring together clinicians, patient voices and representatives from organisations across the Health and Social Care (HSC) system.
Dr Maxwell says the level of pressure usually experienced in winter at Northern Ireland's emergency departments is now lasting throughout the year. He added: "Many people who currently attend emergency departments do not have life-threatening emergency care needs, and could be dealt with more effectively in different settings, but there is currently nowhere else for them to turn.
"We need fundamental reform - including developing alternative routes to treatment, care and admission for our older citizens."
Department of Health permanent secretary Richard Pengelly added: "It is very clear we need a new model of care.
"Unless we make changes, we will increasingly be unable to cope with the changing levels of need in our community."
Dr Anne Carson, BMA NI consultants committee chair, said: "As we know, pressure on our emergency departments increases every year and this puts doctors under immense stress, and is very upsetting for patients who attend."