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Emergency Departments in Northern Ireland strained by capacity issues and facing severe pressures

2 June 2021

Commenting on the significant increase in pressures on Emergency Departments in Northern Ireland, Dr Paul Kerr, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine Northern Ireland, said:

“Emergency Departments (EDs) across Northern Ireland are facing severe pressures. In April we stated that pressures on EDs in Northern Ireland were rapidly increasing and we needed urgent action and a clear plan and support to meet the rise in demand. With a return of crowding and long stays, we called for the safe expansion of capacity. No such action has been taken yet.

“Right now, we have record numbers of emergency admissions delayed by over 12-hours. Things are deteriorating very quickly; Emergency Departments are facing crises over emergency cases delayed for long periods before being admitted.

“The focus on elective care is necessary but that must not come at the cost of urgent and emergency care. Any approach must see the connection between the two and be taken in tandem. We cannot neglect urgent and emergency care or these patients. And EDs cannot be used as extra capacity for elective care when we desperately need the capacity for our urgent and emergency care patients.

“We are facing major capacity issues. While alternative care such as ‘Phone First’ and urgent care centres aim to help, the real demand and footfall comes to Emergency Departments so that is where we must dedicate what limited resources, funding, and staff we have.

“Without any safe expansion of capacity or support for Emergency Departments, dangerous crowding, long stays and corridor care – that we are already seeing – could become more routine and put patient safety at risk – especially with covid still present in the community. We must see steps be taken to support our EDs and a clear plan, beginning with finding a safe way to increase the number of beds.”


Notes to Editor

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