Maeve Hully, Chief Executive
Over the past few weeks, you might have experience of visiting a very busy hospital Emergency Department, or heard about the pressures facing our Health service on the news. Why is this happening?
The Health and Social Care Board says the number of people attending Emergency Departments has risen by 24% (3,039 patients) since 2013/14 for the Christmas and New Year holiday period.
They have produced information for patients on why our Emergency Departments come under pressure so much around this time of year. Having this information available is useful, so we can all better understand our Health and Social Care system here, and what we can do to help ourselves and go to the right place for care.
There are a range of alternative services that people can access if they do not need emergency care. These include using the online A-Z symptom checker, seeking advice from a pharmacist, going to a Minor Injury Unit, or contacting a GP or the GP Out of Hours services (if their medical condition can’t wait until the GP surgery reopens). People can also check the average waiting times in their local Emergency Department
The Patient and Client Council Care when I need it report shows how much people value the work done by health care staff providing treatment. It’s anticipated that Emergency Departments and other urgent care services will continue to face pressures in the time ahead, as are other areas in the UK and Ireland.
Many people try to make the right choices, but with challenges like long call backs for GP Out of Hours, and limited opening hours in surgeries and minor injury units they end up with no other option than attending Emergency Departments. For many, an increased wait, is an increased worry.
There is lots of work going on to find solutions to the issues facing Emergency Departments in Northern Ireland. What many people agree on is the need for overall transformation of the whole Health and Social Care system.
What’s been your experience of accessing Health and Social Care over the past few weeks? What do you think needs to happen to help reduce pressures on our Emergency Departments?