Northern Ireland

Warning NI healthcare system is 'running on red'

Figures revealed that yesterday (Friday) morning, more than 300 patients across Northern Ireland were waiting on a hospital bed
Figures revealed that yesterday (Friday) morning, more than 300 patients across Northern Ireland were waiting on a hospital bed

THERE was a stark warning last night that the healthcare system in Northern Ireland is "running on red".

Professor Mark Taylor, director of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) in the north, also said the service was facing unprecedented pressure amid a "twindemic of flu and Covid".

It comes as figures revealed there were more than 300 patients across Northern Ireland waiting on a hospital bed yesterday morning (Friday).

There were also 662 patients in emergency departments, with half of those waiting more than 12 hours.

In a bid to increase bed capacity for unscheduled admissions, health trusts have begun to cancel non-urgent operations.

All trusts, except Belfast, said they were taking the action amid the escalating hospital pressures.

The Western Trust said a small number of procedures have been postponed, including orthopaedic procedures, while the South Eastern Trust said it had planned ahead and reduced the number of patients booked in for procedures during the winter months.

But it said the trust may have to postpone some planned surgery and outpatient appointments at short notice.

Some elective orthopaedic surgery has also been cancelled in the Southern Health Trust.

However, Professor Taylor warned that cancelling operations risked leaving patients in pain, whilst also leading to a knock-on effect on pressures on emergency departments.

"Many of the people coming to EDs are coming with flare-ups of the particular problem they are on a waiting list to be rectified for," he told the BBC.

He added: "The frustration comes from we know why we are in this position, we have rehearsed this for many years now.

"Unfortunately in the aftermath of Covid we have a twindemic of flu and Covid.

"We have staff reductions, we have the longest waiting lists. We have primary care in great distress.

"We can't sit in Winter 2023 having this same conversation."

Earlier this week, it was also revealed that the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service had launched an investigation into whether a delayed response contributed to the deaths of eight people in recent weeks.

Four of the deaths are being treated as serious adverse incidents while the remaining four are still being considered.

The first five were identified between December 12 to 22.

The Department of Health also has said that the support of the public was vital as health services "experience unprecedented pressures".