Emergency care pressures in Northern Ireland will cause more unnecessary deaths in the future, according to a senior doctor.
Dr Paul Kerr said there was currently “a dreadful crowding situation” at emergency departments (EDs). He told The Irish News on Tuesday that the health service had experienced its worst winter on record.
The Department of Health said at midday on Tuesday almost 400 people were waiting to be admitted to hospital.
Dr Kerr added that he expects the situation to get worse before spring.
“We have a dreadful crowding situation and we have perhaps 450 patients lying on trolleys at this moment in time, queuing literally to get into hospital for emergency treatment,” he told BBC News NI.
“So you can expect that filters back into the ambulance system and causes delays in the response time and dreadful delays in the offload time.
“That’s scandalous and shocking; in fact and is bound to lead to increased mortality.”
On Tuesday at 10:00 GMT, it was reported that the average waiting time at the Royal Victoria Hospital was just over five and a half hours (332 minutes), Current Department of Health targets state that 95% of all ED patients should be treated and either discharged or admitted to hospital within four hours.
The targets also state that no single patient should wait any longer than 12 hours for treatment.
However, at midday on Tuesday, there were 376 patients in EDs across Northern Ireland who had already been waiting for more than 12 hours. Department of Health figures show:
The Belfast Health Trust had 95 patients waiting more than 12 hours at midday
The Northern Health Trust had 86 patients in the same position
The Western Health Trust had 66 patients breaching the 12-hour target
The South Eastern Health Trust – 65 patients
The Southern Health Trust – 64 patients
The department added that those figures provide “a snapshot of emergency departments at a particular point in time” and the situation can change very quickly.
Last week, Dr Paul Baylis, a consultant in emergency medicine at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry, said the situation at Northern Ireland’s emergency departments was getting steadily worse.
Dr Kerr is vice-president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine in Northern Ireland and is an emergency consultant based at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.
Dr Kerr highlighted the impact that pressures were having on medical staff and said that there needed to be “more beds in the system”. He said the number of people lying in emergency departments was “progressively rising week on week”.
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