Safety of Northern Ireland patients at risk by crisis point NHS

By Gary Adair

The Northern Ireland health service is "crisis point" and is "compromising the health and well-being of staff and putting the safety of patients at risk", according to Janice Smyth, the Northern Ireland Director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The comments come in one of the toughest weeks that Northern Ireland health trusts have had to face, with an unprecedented number of people arriving at emergency departments seeking treatment. Sean McGovern from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine NI said the situation had reached "crisis" was the worst he had ever seen. He said that an "extraordinary number of people" were in emergency departments waiting for a bed.

Figures for the one week period from 24th December 2017 to 1st January 2018 reveal the following:

15,626 patients were treated in emergency departments in Northern Ireland - an increase of 4 per cent on the same week last year 3,500 patients were admitted 928 patients had to wait over 12 hours for admission, transfer or discharge

On New Year's Eve St John Ambulance volunteers were asked to help out with patient care, and on New Year's day a plea went out from the Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Trust on social media asking any available nurses to come into work. In some waiting areas doctors came out and advised people to go home and see their own GP, an out-of-hours GP or pharmacist, unless they had an absolute emergency. Though it seems that anyone who would have taken that advice would have faced similar frustration, as it is reported that on 26th December patients in the Southern Health Trust had to wait for up to 34 hours to speak to an out-of-hours GP.

Janice Smyth of the RCN says the situation around the country over the Christmas holidays highlights that the health service in Northern Ireland has reached crisis point, and said that patient safety was at risk.

Delays in admission and treatment can reduce a patient's chances of successful treatment or the options available to them. Emergency departments are not the only areas under strain, and it was revealed at the end of 2017 that 272,656 people were waiting for an outpatient appointment at the end of September. None of the targets set for receiving appointments or diagnostic tests had been met.

If you require legal advice from a medical negligence solicitor in Northern Ireland in respect of injury or loss suffered as a result of delayed diagnosis, or delayed or negligent medical care, contact Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast or Bangor by clicking here.