Northern Ireland news

Belfast Trust apologises over children's surgeries postponed in wake of 'extreme pressure' on staff

The Belfast Health Trust has apologised for the postponing of surgeries at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.
Paul Ainsworth

THE Belfast Health Trust has apologised for postponing children's surgeries due to increasing pressure it warns will affect services through to next spring.

Since the beginning of this month, 14 operations at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children have been postponed as a result of bed availability.

The trust has blamed pressure caused by the pandemic and a rise in children experiencing infections including Respiratory Syncytial Virus.

However, the trust has said planned emergency surgeries were continuing.

The trust said the hospital's emergency department has seen an increase in visitors since the summer, with the peak seeing 184 children attending the ward in a single day and 22 of those being admitted to hospital beds.

A spokesperson warned staff were "under extreme pressure, and this has potential to continue until March.

Clinical Director Dr Karl McKeever said staff were facing a "long and difficult winter period" but said a "surge plan" to maximise capacity was in place, including having a consultant available for GPs to contact to manage cases within communities.

"Regrettably, we have had to postpone 14 surgeries since October 1 due to bed availability but emergency surgeries continue. Belfast Trust and the Children’s Hospital are following UK wide agreed Royal College of Surgeons surgical prioritisation protocols," he said.

"We deeply regret that some patients with less urgent conditions may face a longer wait for surgery than we would like and we sincerely apologise to anyone who has been affected by this. We would like to assure our patients and our families that we are working hard to reschedule any surgery we have postponed."

The SDLP's health spokesperson Colin McGrath said the postponing of surgeries was "cause for grave concern".

"We are already starting to see the impact of winter pressures and staff have expressed concern about the number of beds available in the coming weeks as the pressure intensifies," he said.

"It’s unthinkable that we are heading towards a situation where we won’t be able to give children the healthcare they need this winter."

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