Northern Ireland news

400 patients wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments in Northern Ireland

The Health and Social Care Board said emergency departments and hospital wards across the north remained 'extremely busy'

FOUR hundred patients waited more than 12 hours in A&E departments in Northern Ireland as more warnings about the "perilous state of emergency care" were issued last night.

In an update on the pressures facing emergency departments and hospital wards across the north, the Health and Social Care Board last night said they remained "extremely busy".

The HSCB revealed that at 2pm yesterday there were "136 patients waiting over 12 hours to be either admitted to a hospital bed or discharged and 401 over the last 24 hour period".

A board spokesperson said: "Staff are continuing to work tirelessly to ensure that patients receive the care they need as quickly and safely as possible.

"There is a continued focus on supporting patients to return home or to a community setting as quickly as possible when their hospital treatment has been completed.

"We can assure the public that anyone who needs to use an emergency department for urgent or life-threatening conditions will continue to receive access to safe, high quality services from our highly skilled and committed staff.

"It is unacceptable and regrettable that some people are having to wait longer to be treated in emergency departments than normal or to be admitted to hospital at this time, for this we apologise."

Dr Ian Crawford of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine yesterday warned the north's health sector had "fallen over the cliff edge" and called for immediate political action to resolve the issues.

SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan also said it was "nothing short of an outrage" that so many people were waiting in emergency departments.

"This is yet another reminder, if it were ever needed, of how badly our health service needs transformation and investment," he said.

"Our health care workers across the north are working under extreme pressure and are at breaking point.

"These escalating waiting times and the numbers of patients waiting are in the context of looming industrial action next week, where health workers are striking for pay justice."

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said the "latest warning about the perilous state of emergency care will come as no surprise".

"It is now time to restore an executive on the basis of a consensus which will see the assembly restored as a functioning chamber to provide proper debate and scrutiny," she said.

Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan said the "waits are unacceptable for patients requiring emergency care".

"The capacity is currently not there to meet demands facing services and as a result hard-working health and social care staff are left struggling to provide safe and high standards of care in the context of significant staff shortages," he said.

"Significant investment in health and social care services is needed for transformation to work and to address the crisis situation in health and social care."

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