Emergency Departments across Northern Ireland were under extreme pressure over the New Year period prompting the Health and social Care Board to ask people not to attend A&E unless they are suffering from acute illness or severe trauma.
In the 14 day period over Christmas and New Year, there was around a three per cent increase in the number of people attending Emergency Departments across Northern Ireland compared to the same period last year, and around a 10 per cent increase compared to two years ago.
On Saturday, January 2 there was between a 15 per cent and 25 per cent increase in attendances at a number of Emergency Departments.
A spokesperson for the Health and Social Care Board said: “As a result of plans in place across the Health and Social Care system, emergency and urgent care services, in general, managed reasonably well over the holiday period. However, with an increase in demand over the weekend, it was appropriate, as part of our ongoing ‘Choose Well’ campaign, to ask to public to assist us in ensuring Emergency Departments are used appropriately, and only for urgent conditions such as a suspected heart attack or stroke, serious head injury or serious accident.
“This helps ensure that the sickest patients can get the care that they need.
“We acknowledge that a number of people have had to wait longer than expected to be admitted to a hospital bed and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.
“There is a concerted effort being made to ensure that the patient journey through the whole system and into the community is as simple, safe and straightforward as possible.
“We can assure the public that anyone who needs to use an Emergency Department for urgent or life threatening conditions that they will continue to receive access to safe, high quality services from our highly skilled and committed staff. If your condition is not urgent such as minor cuts, sprains, broken bones, colds, aches and pains, minor burns or scalds, please use alternative services such as; your local pharmacy, minor injuries unit, GP or GP out of hours service.”
In relation to the issue of delayed discharges, the spokesperson added: “The Board is aware of the current challenges of providing a number of community services including: domiciliary, residential and nursing care. In the short term funding has been provided to ensure that sufficient capacity can be purchased but the longer term issues of staff availability, sector stability and development require more detailed examination and resolution which the Board is working closely with Trusts and the Department to resolve.”