Northern Ireland health crisis: 'Adrenaline and good will propping up broken and failing system' warns top doctor as figures show over 9,000 faced 12 hour waits last month
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The latest emergency care waiting time statistics, published by the Stormont health department on Thursday and covering October, November and December, show that nearly 10,000 people in Northern Ireland were forced to wait at least 12 hours for treatment at Northern Ireland’s A&Es in one month alone.
There were 62,350 through the doors of emergency departments (EDs) in Northern Ireland last month, of whom 9,816 had to wait at least 12 hours.
Dr Paul Kerr, vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine in Northern Ireland, said: “These data show the scale of this health crisis in Northern Ireland. The majority of patients in December 2022, three-in-five, faced waits of four-hours or more, and nearly one-in-five patients faced waits of 12-hours or more. It is devastating. Staff are pushed to their very limit delivering care for their patients in these extremely challenging conditions, while patients are anxious and worried.”
He continued: “Staff cannot continue to work through adrenaline and goodwill to prop up a broken and failing system. This is the worst crisis we’ve ever had, and you can see that in the figures published today. The figures represent real people who are sick, injured, or unwell and need urgent and emergency care, but the system is providing it to them neither quickly nor effectively. More patients’ week-on-week face long and dangerous waits in crowded departments, corridors, on trolleys, it is undignified for patients and distressing for staff. We know long waits are associated with increased patient harm and mortality, but we are powerless as there are no beds on wards to which we can admit patients, so they stay in the emergency department for far longer than they should.”
Dr Kerr added: “We need cross-party political leaders to recognise the severity of this crisis, the damage to patients, staff and the damage to the health system. We need urgent and meaningful action to tackle this. This must begin with increasing the social care workforce and social care capacity and focusing on discharging patients in timely and safe way. Capacity across Trusts must be expanded where safely possible.”