21 Mar 2012

The health minister wants to see 95% of patients in A&E departments admittted or discharged within four hours.

Edwin Poots unveiled his proposals for combating waiting time in casualty units on Wednesday.

He will also permit senior nurses to discharge patients at weekends and on public holidays and allow more people to be let home before lunchtime.

Mr Poots revealed his plans to over 100 nurses and midwives in Newtownabbey.

He was speaking to delegates at the Ward Sister Conference in Mossley Mill.

The minister is also establishing an action group, made up of the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and the Public Health Agency, to look into the situation immediately.

A similar scheme has been undertaken at the Antrim Area Hospital over the last six weeks.

He also said he will be meeting the chief executive of the HSCB and other senior officials on a regular basis.

Mr Poots wants to see a gradual change in the performance of the health service, with patients moved through the process quicker, releasing beds sooner.

He said he only wanted to see 12-hour waits for patients in the “rarest of circumstances”.

“I will not accept poor or sub-standard services in our hospitals,” he said.

“The proposals in the ‘Transforming Your Care’ report, represent a radical change to how we currently deliver health services.

“However, providing safe and effective services means looking to the here and now, as well as the future, and we need to ensure that the services that are currently being delivered serve all of our citizens well.

“I want to see a significant improvement in the performance of emergency departments across Northern Ireland and that can only be achieved through a broad approach, involving all areas of the health service.”

Health workers and patients have been critical of the situation at the Royal Victoria Hospital since the A&E unit at the City Hospital closed last year.

It emerged last week that a 77-year-old man died on a hospital trolley at the RVH after waiting almost 24 hours for a bed.