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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

McDonald comments after “unbelievable” numbers of patients kept in Antrim ED corridors

Antrim area hospital emergency department

Local Alderman Stewart McDonald has expressed his shock at the current state of hospitals after receiving reports of "unbelievable" number of patients being kept in the corridors of Northern Trust's Emergency Departments (EDs).

The Deputy Mayor of Mid and East Antrim was commenting after an early afternoon announcement by the Trust on Monday (2nd October), advising that EDs were once again under "severe pressure" at both Antrim Area Hospital and Causeway Hospital, Coleraine.

Around 4.30pm on Monday afternoon, Antrim Area was reporting an average waiting time of 152 minutes to be seen, while at Causeway it was 169 minutes. The Minor Injury Unit at Mid Ulster Hospital (open Monday - Friday, from 9am - 5pm) reported a wait time of 7 minutes.

TUV Alderman Stewart McDonald said:


“It is clear once again that hospitals within the Northern Trust are beyond breaking point with the Trust having to issuing a statement due to the extreme pressure on emergency departments in both Antrim and Causeway.


“Reports have reached me of the number of patients being kept in corridors being unbelievable.


“I must add that I am not suggesting for one moment that there is any fault on the part of hospital staff who I have no doubt have done their absolute best throughout but it is quite clear to me that the system is beyond breaking point.


“This situation is all the more concerning given that the weather is currently quite mild and we are a long way out from the seasonal pressures of colds, flus and other viruses which the winter months bring.


“Quite simply it isn’t good enough that elderly folk who have paid into the system all their lives have been left with such shabby treatment. It is small wonder that there is such strong feeling about the issue of immigration when the system is so far from being able to cope with the number of people who are already here.”

Responding to the councillor's concerns, a spokesperson for the Northern Health & Social Care Trust stated, "we advised the public that our Emergency Departments at both Antrim Area Hospital and Causeway Hospital were under extreme pressure to help ensure they were aware of the difficult circumstances our staff were facing."

The Trust spokesperson continued:


"On occasions like Monday, some patients waiting for a bed, and those triaged as less urgent, may experience a longer wait. We ensured that those who were critically unwell were prioritised for beds and that all those requiring care received it.  


"It is vital that anyone who is feeling unwell can access the care that they need. Our Phone First system helps to ensure that people are guided to the most appropriate care in order to mitigate against overcrowding and long waits at Emergency Departments.


"We would appeal for the public’s understanding and would ask people to work with us to ensure that our Emergency Department staff are able to care for the sickest and most vulnerable patients.  


"In an emergency, such as stroke, heart attack, loss of consciousness, breathing difficulties, severe bleeding or major trauma, always call 999.”

Today, Wednesday 4th October, Northern Ireland's Department of Health announced a detailed winter plan saying, "with severe pressures expected on services, the importance of all parts of the system working together has never been more critical."

The 2023/24 Winter Preparedness Plan details a series of investments and initiatives, including:

• Strengthening the Urgent and Emergency Care system to provide alternatives to Emergency Departments

• £3.4million in funding provided to General Medical Services (GMS) and Out of Hours Services (OOH) to support GP practices

• Northern Ireland Ambulance Service increasing the range and capacity of clinical expertise within Ambulance Emergency Contro

• Enhanced hospital capacity

• £4.3million provided to support GP practices across Northern Ireland

• Rolling out the Pharmacy First Pilot Service for Uncomplicated Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) in Women Aged 16-64 years.

• Allocating £265,000 to a new Pharmacy First Sore Throat ‘test and treat’ service

• HSC Trusts will jointly establish a Regional Control System

• To make best use of available domiciliary care capacity, Trusts have been allocated recurrent funding of £697,000 to establish early review teams

Today's published report also highlighted key targets as part of the winter preparedness plan, including:

• Ambulance handovers completed within 15 minutes of arrival at a hospital and no later than the two-hours.

• Average ambulance response times should be 10 minutes for Category 1 calls and 36 minutes for Category 2 calls.

• Simple discharges will take place within four hours of a patient being declared medically fit.

• Complex discharges will take place within 48 hours of a patient being declared medically fit.

• The number of simple discharges on any Saturday and any Sunday should be at least 80% of the average daily number of simple discharges from Monday-Friday in that week.

• The number of complex discharges on any Saturday and any Sunday should be at least 60% of the average daily number of complex discharges from Monday-Friday in that week

The Department of Health’s Permanent Secretary Peter May, who attended today’s summit, has welcomed the plan. He commented:

“Winter causes difficulties for all health services and we know that our system in Northern Ireland will face severe challenges. The measures set out today in this winter plan can undoubtedly help mitigate the pressures in NI but they cannot eradicate them.

“Addressing these challenges substantively requires long term planning and budgetary certainty. While the current environment does not provide these, we are taking the steps we can both for this winter and beyond within the severe budgetary constraints that exist.   

“In the immediate future, the focus this winter has to be on all parts of the health and social care system working together.


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