Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Health Service prepares to deal with significant Christmas pressures

Emergency Departments and GP services in Northern Ireland are facing significant pressures going into the Christmas and New Year holiday period,  Health and Social Care (HSC) organisations have warned.

Dr John Maxwell, one of Belfast Trust’s most senior ED consultants and Chair of Division, Emergency Medicine, has called on the public to only use Emergency Departments (EDs) for urgent and life threatening conditions.

“EDs across Northern Ireland have been under pressure for a number of months and we know that attendances over the holiday period will rise significantly,” said Dr Maxwell.

“Staff are working tirelessly in challenging circumstances but we also need the public’s help to ensure that the sickest patients get the care they need. The most clinically urgent patients will continue to be prioritised and those with less serious needs should consider using alternative services to avoid lengthy waits.”

There is a significant amount of work ongoing right across the entire health and social care system to maintain the resilience of primary, urgent and emergency care services during the winter months.

The Department of Health has made an additional £7 million available to support Trusts and Primary Care to put in place additional measures to help alleviate some of the winter pressures in Health and Social Care this year.   

Dr Maxwell added: “Our core focus is to assist people in avoiding hospital in the first place through helping them stay well.

“We are also working hard to ensure people, if they require hospital treatment, can move quickly and safely through the hospital and back into the community when their treatment in hospital has been completed. One of the ways patients and their families can help is to work with Trusts in relation to any ongoing care needs, which may involve agreeing to a temporary move to a nursing or residential home if their first choice isn’t available. This would help avoid people staying in hospital longer than they need to and free up beds for other patients who require them.

“The vast majority of people who use EDs and other urgent care services receive safe, effective and quality care but there are challenges ahead which is why we need to continue to reform our services.”