Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Local health service is now on critical list

The NHS is under unprecedented strain (stock photo)
The NHS is under unprecedented strain (stock photo)

Editor's Viewpoint

It is common knowledge that the NHS is under unprecedented strain. No less authorities than the permanent secretary of the Department of Health Richard Pengelly and the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster have warned that the local health service is on the verge of collapse.

We know that the number of people on waiting lists is growing, as is the length of time patients have to wait.

There are also many vacancies, putting more pressure on those working, and transformation blueprints are gathering dust because there is no devolved government.

But it takes stories like the one we carry today to show what these warnings and bald statistics mean in real life to real patients.

A 66-year-old woman with respiratory problems waiting on a trolley for more than 48 hours to get a hospital bed; the average waiting time at the Causeway Hospital's emergency department hitting more than nine hours; and in Antrim Area Hospital, an exasperated doctor spelling out his problems, which included 10 patients waiting for more than 12 hours to be admitted and only eight doctors to see a further 100 patients - with more on the way.

That is what crisis really means. Hospital staff are struggling to cope with a tidal wave of patients arriving at emergency departments and they never have the staffing levels or resources to do so adequately.

This is all happening before the real winter pressures begin. One shudders to think how staff will cope in the bleak months of December, January and February, when winter ailments peak.

Sign In

These stories are far from unique. They happen in every NHS hospital in the province.

We should be alarmed and we should demand that something is done to preserve the most vital public service delivered by government.

What government, you may well ask. Certainly, the chances of a devolved government returning to Stormont any time soon are receding rather than improving.

The relationship between the DUP and Sinn Fein will plummet further during what will be a toxic general election campaign.

In the meantime, Westminster continues to dither on taking decisions that matter on this side of the Irish Sea in the absence of devolution.

The NHS can be repaired, but it requires visionary policies and strong political decisions, neither of which are remotely evident.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph