The Health Minister’s announcement yesterday of 40 more nurses to care for emergency patients at the Royal Victoria Hospital highlights the pressures staff there have been under for some time, it is claimed.
Edwin Poots made the announcement after months of intense media coverage and political debate regarding what some claim are dangerously over-stretched resources at the Royal’s casualty department.
However, UUP health spokesman Roy Beggs said the volume of new positions announced underlined the extent of under-resourcing at the hospital up until now.
The minister added: “I am under no illusion that it will take time to make a difference. I don’t expect change to happen overnight – but I do expect progress to be made. It is clear that there has been progress to an extent but much more needs to be done and we need to maintain the momentum that has been built. As I have said before these are complex issues and there are no easy solutions.”
The Belfast Trust has carried out several steps, he said:
l A review has resulted in 15 nurses being appointed to the Emergency Department (ED) and 25 to the Acute Medical Unit (AMU), a unit which admits casualty patients to hospital wards
l Investigations are under way to find immediate ways to improve the flow of patients between the ED and AMU
l Reviews are ongoing into the timings of key meetings to speed up key triage decisions
l Electronic patient tracking is to be introduced “as rapidly as possible”.
Janice Smyth, director of the Royal College of Nursing in Northern Ireland, welcomed the minister’s statement, which she said was addressing issues in the RVH’s emergency department “in the short term”.
“It is clear that the minister has engaged with, and is listening to, frontline nurses,” she said. “The RCN is relieved that within the announcement is confirmation that an additional 40 nurses are to be employed to address gaps within the nursing team, an issue that has consistently been raised by the RCN.
“We agree that much work still needs to be done, not least around identifying the wider problems within the health and social care system that are manifesting themselves within emergency departments.”
Also yesterday Mr Poots announced a major summit which the College of Emergency Medicine has agreed to hold in Northern Ireland on April 9. It will bring together key experts from across the UK to review the local care systems, he said.
UUP health spokesman and Stormont health committee member Roy Beggs MLA said the announcement of 40 new nursing staff for the RVH casualty department would be seen “by any reasonable person” as an admission of how short staffed it has been.
It was “quite remarkable” that an A&E consultant at the RVH began to sue the Belfast Health Trust on Friday for failing in its duty of care to staff regarding stress levels, he said.
“Perhaps the start of this legal action has been a factor in the minister now taking action to provide more nursing and clinical staff at this time,” he added.