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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

£23.1m Investment in new wards but concerns continue over ambulance turnaround times

Ambulances parked outside Antrim Area Hospital

Ambulances faced delays of more than three hours at Antrim Hospital on 241 occasions during the last month, the Northern Health and Social Care Trust board has been told.

Speaking at a meeting on Thursday morning, board member Paul Corrigan said that although there has been no increase in the number of ambulance arrivals, turnaround times “continue to cause concern”.

“Ambulances parked up outside back or front doors is not what we want.”

In response, Audrey Harris the Trust’s divisional director medicine and emergency medicine, said: “Ambulance turnaround concerns me. We are making every concerted effort to address that.”

She went on to say emergency department waits have increased at Antrim and Causeway Hospital sites which are “more likely” to result in admissions.

The number of patients in attendance at the Trust’s emergency departments reached 377 during a 24-hour period this week.

She reported both sites are operating “above capacity as is the region”.

“Complex discharges are also challenging currently, Ambulance turnaround is usually a symptom of pressures. Antrim consistently has the second highest arrivals in Northern Ireland.”

Audrey continued: “We have an improvement plan, a very focused approach, working in partnership with NIAS (Northern Ireland Ambulance Service) to look at any efficiencies.

“We are very focused on our turnaround times. If we are working at full capacity, NIAS is one of our key indicators.”

Meanwhile, the first of two new wards to provide an additional 48 beds at Antrim Hospital has opened. It is anticipated a second ward will open in June. The overall cost of this increased bed space is £23.1m.

In response to a query about complex discharges, Diane Spence,  divisional director community care, said: “We are very challenged at the back door.”

She reported the Trust uses residential beds as well as beds in the independent sector for some discharge patients. She indicated that complex discharges can arise from increased need relating to dementia and delirium.

“We struggle to provide domicilary care in a number of areas across the Trust. We have seen it depleted through staff absence. We have more people wishing to remain at home.”


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