Nine of NI’s 11 hospitals have run out of beds

Almost every hospital in Northern Ireland has run out of beds, with hundreds of patients forced to wait for admission.

Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 7:09 pm
Updated Friday, 4th June 2021, 9:58 am
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 18th January 2021 General view of Antrim Area Hospital Emergency Department. Hospitals in Northern Ireland are coming under increasing pressure as the number of COVID-19 patients has sharply increased in the last number of weeks. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

That is according to the latest figures from the Department of Health at Stormont, which show that nine of the 11 hospitals are ‘over capacity’, and comes after a leading doctor warned the situation at A&Es had become “dangerous” with overcrowding.

Several health trusts have also appealed to the public to stay away from emergency departments except in the most urgent circumstances.

The surge in demand is in stark contrast with the last time hospitals faced such serious capacity issues, when the influx of coronavirus patients during the second wave of the pandemic added serious pressure.

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

But the latest coronavirus statistics show the lowest number of virus inpatients recorded in Northern Ireland since the beginning of the pandemic in March last year, with just 17 reported in the latest figures – compared with more than 1,000 in the middle of January.

The latest statistics show that with more than 3,000 beds occupied, there was no room to be found for 221 patients.

On Wednesday, the vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine in Northern Ireland said “record numbers” of people were being forced to wait more than 12 hours for care at A&Es.

Dr Paul Kerr added: “Things are deteriorating very quickly.

“Without any safe expansion of capacity or support for emergency departments, dangerous crowding, long stays and corridor care – that we are already seeing – could become more routine and put patient safety at risk, especially with Covid still present in the community.

“We must see steps be taken to support our emergency departments and a clear plan, beginning with finding a safe way to increase the number of beds.”

Dr Kerr had warned in April that pressure was building on emergency departments but said this week that nothing had been done about the problem.

“In April we stated that pressures on emergency departments in Northern Ireland were rapidly increasing and we needed urgent action and a clear plan and support to meet the rise in demand. With a return of crowding and long stays, we called for the safe expansion of capacity. No such action has been taken yet.”

On Thursday, the Altnagelvin, Antrim, Causeway, Daisy Hill, Lagan Valley, Mater, Royal Victoria, South West Acute, and Ulster hospitals were listed as ‘over capacity’, meaning they had more patients than beds.

The pressure on hospitals comes as the latest coronavirus data continues to show an improving situation. There were 80 new coronavirus infections recorded in the latest update, for a total for the past seven days of 488 – a drop of around 7% on the 525 cases the previous week. There was one new death recorded.