East Antrim UUP MLA Roy Beggs has again raised the issue of waiting times at Casualty Units in Northern Ireland, in particular at Antrim Area Hospital.
Questioning the Minister at Stormont, Mr Beggs said:
During March and April, the main accident and emergency units in Northern Ireland saw the lowest proportion of patients treated within four hours ever recorded. The figures show that one third of patients at Antrim Area Hospital are not seen within four hours and that, at the Causeway Hospital, it is about 30% of patients. How can the Minister be confident that we are seeing something more significant than the normal seasonal adjustment as we approach the summer months? How can he be sure that we are seeing significant improvement and changes and are starting to reach the 95% target that exists everywhere in the United Kingdom?”
Replying, Health Minister Poots could give no assurances that A&E waiting times would meet NHS targets. He said, “Our hospitals were under an awful lot of pressure, not so much in the early part of the winter but as we went into February, March and April. We have not quite come to an understanding of what has caused this or what the real problem has been, but we are very clear that there has been a significant increase in the number of people who have had to be admitted and the number of people who have been attending.”
Speaking later, Mr Beggs commented, “There were headlines in the national newspapers recently about a crisis in A&E waiting times in England and Wales. Yet the figures there remain far better than in Northern Ireland. We are nowhere near the NHS target that 95% of patients should be seen at A&E within 4 hours. I see nothing in Minister Poots’ performances at Stormont that he either understands the full extent of the problems here, or that he has a plan to tackle it.”