Contingency plans in place at Belfast A&E

Published Friday, 10 January 2014
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The Belfast Health Trust has said staff and extra beds are on standby, should they be needed, to cope with extra demand at the Royal Victoria Hospital's A&E department over the weekend.

Contingency plans in place at Belfast A&E
A major incident was declared at the Royal Victoria, Belfast. (© Pacemaker)

The trust has made the move after increased demand in patients requiring emergency care on Wednesday caused it to declare a major incident at the facility.

Patients said they faced waits of almost 12 hours and staff likened the scenes they faced to a war zone.

The backlog of patients - caused by a recent spike in the number of people attending - came despite the absence of a flu epidemic, snow or other major contributing factors.

The major incident plan called in extra staff to deal with the scores of patients left on trolleys while waiting to be treated.

Some people were also diverted to other hospitals.

Following the incident, staff protested about the "crisis" and Health Minister Edwin Poots was booed by those protestors when he visited the hospital.

The major incident ran for four hours until midnight on Wednesday.

On Friday a spokeswoman for the hospital said: "Belfast Trust's emergency department is working normally.

"The trust has put in place contingency arrangements and created additional capacity for the coming weekend should it be required.

"Our clinical and managerial staff work in tight partnership to relentlessly focus on alleviating pressure in the emergency department and they are committed to ensuring the Belfast Trust delivers the best possible care for our patients."

One of Northern Ireland's top medical officials has praised the Belfast Health Trust and the work of medical staff for their actions following the incident.

Head of the Health and Social Care Board, John Compton, said the staff and management, dealt appropriately with the situation.

He told UTV Live Tonight: "I don't think it was a crisis, there was a particular set of circumstances that occurred and I think the trust acted entirely properly.

"It declared the emergency, that's a major incident, it triggers extra staff coming in, it triggers the whole of the health and social care system to support it.

"When the divert went to the Ulster Hospital to allow the Royal to recover, it was very quiet and calm.

"People have their perceptions. I am certainly sure that when the incident was declared at 8pm and ran through to 12am for four hours it was very difficult.

The point I would make is that when we declared the incident, the question to ask is that did the incident declaration work and it did.

John Compton

He added: "As with all major incidents we will look at it again and learn from it.

"But people should be reassured from the fact that when you call a major incident, you do get a result, you do get control and you do get a restoration of how departments are working."

Mr Compton said it wasn't just the number of people at the hospital, but the nature of the "degree of illness" that staff had to deal with.

"Normally we admit people on a one in four basis, but on Wednesday, it was closer to one in two basis, that's what caused the difficulty, that's why at one point there was 40 people on trolleys."

Louise Skelly from the Patient and Client Council said there needed to be a change in the system to ease the pressure on the health service.

She added: "People feel there are barriers to getting access to GP out of hours, or there are delays, for example in getting care for sick children, so the only way to get treatment, or to get admitted, is to attend the emergency department.

"The whole system needs changed.

"People with long term illness or the frail elderly feel that doctors should have the ability to admit them directly to hospitals."

© UTV News
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4 Comments
Newtownabbey in Newtownabbey wrote (235 days ago):
Many times i have been to RVH and had to lie on a trolley at all times of night and day I have a chronic neurological condition and am not a time waster it has been understaffed by underpaid nurses doing an excellent job while suits wander round checking curtains are hung correctly. Now I have been in pain and total discomfort and had to endure the indignity of this for in some cases 13/14 hours the longest 17 hours is this a QUALITY PATIENT CENTRED SERVICE NO so Mr SUIT and MR POOTS sort this sham out. Moving your care forward well start by paying more attention to staff and patients needs.!!!!
Jill in newtownabbey wrote (235 days ago):
Having listened to John Compton last evening and had my family at the coal face, so to speak, observing the incident as it unfolded; I have to say that while any actions taken to rectify the incident have to be applauded; however the question is still hanging LARGE! Why did it take so long i.e. Hours of suffering by so many patients, with intolerable conditions, poor care delivery and staff who under the circumstances in which they had worked in the later afternoon and early evening suffered tremendous strain and work stress....did it take soooo long for those managers to make the decision to implement the MAJOR INCIDENT PROTOCOL? I don't think any of us our questioning the appropriateness of the response just the timing? Perhaps Mr Compton or Mr Poots could investigate and perhaps respond to this question and some learning and reflective practise for future contingency planning applied as a result of the experience on Wednesday 8th January.
Mike in Moira wrote (235 days ago):
The most obvious fact is it should NEVER have got to this stage .Had the Trust not been so greedy as to save money that put the lives of people at risk the. This would never have occurred on a normal working day in Any of our hospitals SHAME SHAME SHAME .yet the British government came carelessly throw away our tax payers money to the like of Sudan........£523 MILLION to date .... And more to follow and what do we in NI get THREATENED with fines of £50 MIllion if we don't now down to them .... Were better off in a UI ....now let's see UtVprint this post. ,,,dare u ....
Valerie in Belfast wrote (235 days ago):
I think this shows perfect sense from John Compton - a hospital is not staffed to cope with exceptional circumstances (it would cost a fortune), it's staffed to cope with normal circumstances and has a plan to deal with anything else. We should be praising the fact that the plan worked well. And as for the comments about out of hours doctors services - i don't understand that at all. Any time i've contacted out of hours i've had an excellent service. People should be more prepared to try that if they aren't sure whether they need to go to A&E or not - for too many people A&E is seen as the only option.
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