Patients have been forced to wait several hours in emergency departments as staff struggle to cope with mounting winter pressures.
On Friday at 2pm across the North, there were 136 patients waiting over 12 hours to be either admitted to a hospital bed or discharged and 401 over a 24 hour period.
Over the Christmas and New year period, hospitals have been extremely busy with an increased numbers of children and older, sicker people with complex conditions attending and being admitted.
South West Acute Hospital, Altnagelvin Hospital and Craigavon Hospital all reported being busy over the past week with scores of patients waiting hours to be seen, while others have been left on trolleys for long periods of time.
A spokesman for the Southern Trust confirmed the emergency department in Craigavon has been extremely busy over the Christmas and New Year period, while the Western Trust said ‘staff are working hard and will prioritise those who are in greater need of urgent care and treatment’.
Meanwhile, the delays in hospitals could increase this week as nurses across the North are set to go on strike twice within the space of 72 hours. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have announced new plans for further strike action on Wednesday, January 8 and Friday, January 10.
The staff have previously said it is ‘last resort’ industrial action as they fight for pay parity and improved staffing levels.
Due to the increasing crowds attending emergency departments the Health and Social Care system in Northern Ireland has urged people not to attend hospital unless it is an emergency.
A spokesman for the agency said, “The pressures on services have led to some patients waiting longer than is acceptable. We would therefore ask the public to assist us in using services appropriately. Our clear message is if you are seriously ill or injured, then the Emergency Department is the place to go. If you are not assessed as urgent you may have to wait for a lengthy period. If you do not need emergency care, we would urge you to please choose alternative services.
“These include using the online A-Z symptom search (click here), seeking advice from your local pharmacist, contacting your GP, or the GP Out of Hours services (if your medical condition can’t wait until your GP surgery reopens).”