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A&E nurses working in intolerable conditions, RCN Northern Ireland director says

RCN Northern Ireland director Janice Smyth has said nurses are ‘under extreme stress’ in response to the latest emergency waiting time figures.
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Nurses in Northern Irelands emergency departments (EDs) are working in intolerable conditions, according to Janice Smyth, the RCNs director for the country.

She was responding to the latest waiting time figures which revealed nearly a third of patients attending EDs were not treated and discharged, or admitted, within four hours.

The waiting time target is 95%, but the performance figure for December 2016 was 69.9%.

This marked a fall of 5.1% on December 2015, when 75% of patients fell within the target.

Unsafe service

The number of people waiting more than 12 hours to be treated and discharged, or admitted, more than trebled from 294 in December 2015 to 887 in December 2016.

Total attendances at EDs increased by 5.7% (3,360)

Nurses in Northern Ireland’s emergency departments (EDs) are working in ‘intolerable conditions’, according to Janice Smyth, the RCN’s director for the country.


Janice Smyth, RCN Northern Ireland director, says working conditions for
the nation’s nurses are ‘intolerable’. Picture: Barney Newman

She was responding to the latest waiting time figures which revealed nearly a third of patients attending EDs were not treated and discharged, or admitted, within four hours. 

The waiting time target is 95%, but the performance figure for December 2016 was 69.9%. 

This marked a fall of 5.1% on December 2015, when 75% of patients fell within the target. 

Unsafe service 

The number of people waiting more than 12 hours to be treated and discharged, or admitted, more than trebled from 294 in December 2015 to 887 in December 2016. 

Total attendances at EDs increased by 5.7% (3,360) in the same period, from 58,734 to 62,094.

Ms Smyth told the Belfast Telegraph: ‘Nurses are working in intolerable conditions. 

‘They are short-staffed, they are under extreme stress and feel like they are not able to provide a proper and safe service to patients.’

Disappointing figures

A Northern Ireland Department of Health spokesperson said the latest performance figures were disappointing, particularly the increase in the number of patients waiting more than 12 hours. 

She added: ‘During December 2016, there was an increase of around 6% in attendances at EDs compared to December 2015. There are indications that this increased to 8% over the Christmas/New Year period.’

The DH allocated £13 million to trusts to support winter planning and last year’s Delivering Together report set out an agenda to build a sustainable health service, according to the spokesperson. 


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