Emergency Departments and hospital wards in Northern Ireland were very busy during the quarter from January to March 2018 and this is a similar situation across the rest of the UK and Ireland.
The increasing number of patients attending Emergency Departments year on year is an indication of rising demand for Emergency Department care. However, activity alone does not reflect the challenges facing our emergency care, acute and community services across the region. Across the HSC, it is recognised that an ageing population, together with the range and complexity of conditions that people may have, can lead to longer hospital stays. As medical beds are often fully occupied, this may result in insufficient available beds for people attending Emergency Department who require admission, leading to longer waiting times in Emergency Departments.
Nobody in the HSC considers this to be an acceptable position and we would apologise to anyone who has had to wait for a long period in an Emergency Department to be seen, treated, and either admitted to hospital or discharged.
The Health and Social Care Board and Public Health Agency are working closely with Trusts to improve key points in the patient pathway. Specifically there is innovative work to enable some people to be managed in their own home by a team of medical and nursing staff. This new approach helps to prevents hospital admission and will be rolled out across the region during 2018.
Initiatives are also being progressed to support patients to return to a community or a home setting in a timely way once they are medically fit to leave hospital. One aspect of this will be an assessment of people’s ongoing needs, including care support, in their home environment, ensuring they can get the care they need and helping them to regain a level of independence quicker. We are hopeful this will also help ensure that those patients requiring a hospital bed can access it more quickly.
Only with concerted effort to embed these and other transformation initiatives will people’s access to emergency care improve.
See Frequently Asked Questions for more information on the challenges facing EDs and what we are doing to address the pressures.