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NI's biggest health trust refuses to disclose longest A&E waiting time

Officials at the Belfast Trust are refusing to disclose the longest delay experienced by an A&E patient, a position at odds with the north's other four health trusts
Seanín Graham

NORTHERN Ireland's biggest health trust has refused to disclose the longest delay experienced by its A&E patients - but admitted almost 70 people waited for more than a day on trolleys in January.

The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, which is responsible for the Royal Victoria hospital (RVH) and Mater hospital casualty units, treats the north's sickest emergency patients including car crash victims and heart attack patients.

A trust spokeswoman refused to provide details on its biggest A&E wait on the grounds it "could be patient identifiable", insisting that the person concerned would be able to identify themselves if the figure was released to the media.

On Saturday, the Irish News revealed that a pensioner faced a record 40-hour trolley wait in Antrim Area hospital. The maximum Department of Health A&E waiting time target is 12 hours.

The Northern trust confirmed the Antrim delay while the three remaining health trusts - Southern, South Eastern and Western - were also forthcoming.

An "extraordinary demand" for A&E services at the Ulster hospital in Dundonald, particularly among the elderly, resulted in one trolley patient enduring a 34 hour and 43 minute delay.

Meanwhile, the Southern Trust - which is responsible for Craigavon Area hospital and Daisy Hill in Newry - said its A&E patients were also affected by delays, with the longest wait at 36 hours and 12 minutes.

Patients attending Altagelvin in Derry and the South West Acute hospital in Enniskillen also endured lengthy waits, with the Western Trust confirming one patients had a 27 hour and 36 minute wait.

A 'trauma audit' into death rates among the most seriously ill patients attending the north's A&E units more than two years ago discovered a 25 per cent rate - 10 per cent higher than international counterparts.

Doctors who carried out the audit warned that waiting times for life-threatening cases were "wholly unacceptable", with one patient waiting 17 hours for appropriate treatment.

The Belfast trust said it had 68 emergency care patients waiting longer than 24 hours split across its two A&E units in January.

"We sincerely apologise that...some patients experienced unacceptable long waits to be admitted to an inpatient bed," a spokesman said.

Alliance Assembly member and former Stormont health committee member Paula Bradshaw criticised the Belfast trust over its "lack of transparency".

"The fact that we have no Assembly and therefore no committee to scrutinise performance as well as no health minister to hold them to account makes the lack of transparency all the more worrying," she said.





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