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More than £10m put aside to tackle winter pressures in health service

Last winter saw a big increase in the number of frail elderly attending hospital A&E departments

MORE than £10 million is being invested by the health service to tackle winter pressures after after last year's record high number of cancelled operations.

Correspondence sent by the most senior civil servant at the Department of Health, Richard Pengelly, outlines the spend which is designed to improve waiting times, patient discharges and ambulance turnaround at A&E departments.

Last December saw one of the worst winter crises in the NHS, with a surge in the number of frail elderly people attending A&E which had a major impact on planned operations - leading to almost 360 routine surgeries being 'postponed" across Northern Ireland.

In a letter to SDLP Assembly member Daniel McCrossan last week, Mr Pengelly said money was being "put aside" for each health trust and will go towards increasing staff numbers in both hospitals and community care as well as extra bed capacity.

The £10.7m will also be used to improve A&E waiting times after hundreds of patients were forced to endure delays in excess of the 12-hour target last year - with one patient experiencing a 49-hour wait.

Mr Pengelly, who is the permanent secretary at the Department, confirmed funding allocations of -

Belfast trust - £2.635m

Northern trust - £2.688m

South Eastern trust - £2.005m

Southern trust - £1.6m

Western trust - £1.789m.

The Ambulance service will also receive an £723,000.

He stated: "The department has asked the Health and Social Care Board/Public Health Agency to coordinate the production of strategic resilience plans for winter 2018/19.

"In addition to addressing key lessons learnt from the reviews of the 2017/2018 resilience plans, the plans will focus on tackling delayed patient discharge, achieving efficient patient flow by delivering care in appropriate settings and improving ambulance turnaround times at emergency departments."

Mr McCrossan, who is an MLA for West Tyrone, welcomed the investment and said he hoped it would help tackle the "unacceptable" waiting times experienced last winter.

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