5 October 2023
The winter plan published by the Department of Health Northern Ireland has been described as “disappointing” by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.
The Winter Preparedness Plan 2023/24 published yesterday (4 October 2023) by the Department of Health Northern Ireland sets out steps to manage and mitigate winter pressures.
The Winter Preparedness Plan 2023/24 lays out the following measures:
Dr Michael Perry, Vice Chair of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine Northern Ireland, commented:
“The emergency care system in Northern Ireland is under significant pressure.
“Our members had no respite during the warmer months, which are typically quieter.
“Patients continue to face excessively long and dangerous waits in overcrowded A&Es.
“Now, we are heading into winter, and one that we fear could be worse than the last.
“While it is right to publish a winter plan, this plan is disappointing.
“There is a welcome increase of some capacity, but there remains an urgent need for more acute beds.
“The focus on the front door by creating handover zones with liaison officers is wrong. A&E departments should not be extended.
“The walls of A&Es are not elastic, extending the department will only increase dangerous overcrowding and corridor care and stretch the workforce further.
“We welcome key performance targets, these should encourage better flow throughout our hospitals, but the omission of targets around A&E waiting times is a misstep.
“We are surprised that we were not consulted on this plan or measures around unscheduled care. And we are concerned that this plan does not go far enough to prepare the emergency care system for what will likely be a tough winter ahead.
“We urge the Department of Health to adopt our priorities to #ResuscitateEmergencyCare.”