The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has launched an inquiry into emergency health care after a major incident was declared in a hospital earlier this year.
In January senior managers at Belfast’s Royal Victoria called in extra staff and opened more beds to deal with a spike in the number of patients.
The commission is to focus on the participation of the public and those working in the health system. It will consider the human rights obligations of public authorities and identify whether those rights were protected.
A confidential free telephone line has been opened for the next three weeks to encourage patients, family and staff to share their experiences.
Commission interim chair John Corey said: “We want to hear from anyone who has recently experienced emergency healthcare, and in particular from those who have sought care from an accident and emergency unit. We also want to hear from the staff who provide this vital service.”
Public hearings will be held in the autumn across Northern Ireland and the commission will be calling Government representatives, public officials, staff, trade unions, patients and their family members to give evidence.
The panel will include commissioner Marion Reynolds, assisted by Professor Paul Hunt, the former UN special rapporteur on the right to health.
Mr Corey added: “The inquiry will consider the total experience of emergency health care from a human rights perspective. This includes the individual’s rights to respect for dignity, access to information, and their involvement in decision-making.”
The Commission will publish its final report and recommendations to the Northern Ireland Executive in April 2015.