Operating theatres across Northern Ireland 'unused or under capacity' due to nursing shortages
OPERATING theatres at three out of Northern Ireland's five health trusts are lying unused or at under-capacity due to a shortage of skilled staff.
Belfast, Southern and Western trusts have all had to reduce the number of non-emergency operations, the BBC reported.
In Belfast, the issue is a lack of perioperative nurses - those caring for patients before and after surgery - rather than theatre staff, leading to "2.5 operating theatres per week not providing their routine service... across all surgical specialities".
In Craigavon, one theatre is not in use and another in Daisy Hill is at reduced capacity due to a "shortage of theatre nurses", although "emergency, red flag and urgent surgery is continuing as normal".
It is understood that the number of operations at both hospitals are also at lower `winter levels' in anticipation of the annual pressures associated with the season.
"Theatre staffing shortages" in Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry have left "an average of ten theatres sessions per week... currently not providing their routine service".
Emergency theatres, trauma theatre and labour ward are not affected and both South West Acute Hospital and Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex are unaffected.
All three trusts refused to say how long the staff shortages have been forcing a drop in the number of operations, so it is unclear whether the effects are already being seen in the north's "unacceptable" hospital waiting lists, or if they will cause a further spike.
The trusts said they are continuing to try to recruit staff to fill the vacancies and are unable to say when they expect theatres to be back at capacity.