A spokesperson for Health and Social Care (HSC) organisations said:
“Major challenges are expected across all health and social care services in Northern Ireland tomorrow (Wednesday 18th December) due to strike action by the RCN, UNISON, UNITE and NIPSA.
“Patient and service user safety is of the utmost importance to us. Regrettably, as a result of the widespread nature of the strike, numerous appointments and treatments have been cancelled and many services across our hospitals and the community care sector have had to be stood down or reduced.
“We sincerely apologise in advance for the distress this action will cause to everyone impacted especially our patients, service users and family members. We ask for your continued patience and support in assisting with alternative care arrangements as necessary.
“All patients and service users impacted by cancellations of appointments and service closures have been notified by their local HSC Trust and appointments will be rescheduled as soon as practicably possible. If patients or service users have not been contacted by their Trust then they should attend their appointment/service as normal.
“All Emergency Departments will remain open as normal, however, we also anticipate significant pressures within these departments.
“The South Tyrone Hospital Minor Injury Unit (MIU), Mid Ulster MIU, Bangor MIU and Ards MIU will all be closed on 18th December. These closures will increase the pressure on our already over stretched Emergency Departments.
“The priority will be on the treating of emergency and life threatening conditions first. Patients with less urgent conditions may have to wait for lengthy periods.
“We would ask the public to assist us in using services appropriately. Our clear message is if you are seriously ill or injured, then the Emergency Department is the place to go.
“But if you do not need emergency care, we would urge you to please choose alternative services. These include using the online A-Z symptom checker (click here), seeking advice from your local pharmacist, contacting your GP, or the GP Out of Hours services (if your medical condition can’t wait until your GP surgery reopens).
“Northern Ireland Ambulance Service will be prioritising 999 calls and those calls which are less serious in nature, potentially, face a delay in response times.
“All Health and Social Care organisations will continue to work alongside the Unions to safeguard urgent and time critical care and to mitigate the effects of the disruption.
“This is a very stressful time for everyone involved in the delivery of services and we would ask anyone who is availing of HSC services to respect our staff who will be providing services during what will be an extremely challenging day for all.”
For further high level details on the impact of the strike action and action short of strike go to www.hscboard.hscni.net/hsc-industrial-action-updates
For the latest and most up to date information on disruptions and cancellations, please visit the Trusts’ website (details below).
For press enquiries contact the Health and Social Care Board’s Communications Officer on 028 9536 3278.
NOTES TO EDITORS
For the latest information go to:
The public can find out the waiting times at all EDs and Minor Injury Units across the region by logging onto www.nidirect.gov.uk/emergency-department-waiting-times. This NI Direct webpage is updated hourly.