WAITING times at Antrim Hospital’s A&E department continue to get longer, East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs Jnr has noted.
The Ulster Unionist representative suggested that even the opening of a new emergency facility in May will not be sufficient to address the problem and urged for the provision of promised health care facilities in Larne and Carrickfergus to ease pressure on Antrim.
Mr Beggs, who is a member of the Assembly health committee, expressed concern at new reports of unacceptable delays for constituents seeking treatment at Antrim Area Hospital, the main accident and emergency unit serving the east Antrim area.
“During recent months, the numbers who have waited more than 12 hours has increased from 183 to 191,” said Mr Beggs.
“The proportion of patients who were treated within less than four hours has also further declined from 63.9 per cent to 61.7 per cent. Behind these statistics, I am aware of unacceptable delays for individual, vulnerable patients.
“Clearly there is a need to bring performance of local accident and emergency units up to the target performance of 95 per cent within four hours, which applies throughout the United Kingdom,” he added.
Figures showed that it can be done, with “virtually every” major A&E hospital in England, Wales and Scotland within the four-hour time frame. By contrast, none of the Northern Ireland A&Es had managed it. Other hospitals that serve the East Antrim area were also in the lower performing category, with the Royal Victoria Hospital in December only treating 65.7 per cent within four hours and the Mater 66 per cent.
Mr Beggs said: “There is an urgent need for the minister and management of Antrim Area Hospital to reduce the waiting times so that local constituents can receive the same level of health care as they could expect in other parts of the United Kingdom.
“I am aware that the nurses, doctors and staff at Antrim A&E are working under considerable pressures. It is clear that more must be done by the management to improve their systems so that the standard of care can improve.
“Whilst the new accident and emergency unit is due to open in May of this year, and should bring about an improvement, it is apparent that all aspects of the health care system can impinge on our A&E units. There have been proposals to develop health and care centres in both Carrickfergus and Larne so that a higher level of care can be provided by GPs and other allied health professionals. It has been recognised in other locations that such centres can have an impact in reducing the numbers who present themselves at A&E units.
“With greater care and management of chronic illness such as heart and respiratory conditions and diabetes, fewer patients will have to present themselves at A&E units and therefore may not need to be admitted to hospital for care.”