Northern Ireland health system facing 'most extreme pressure ever', says top GP

Northern Ireland's health system is facing the most extreme pressure it has ever experienced, according to a top GP.

Dr Tom Black of the British Medical Association (BMA) added that the situation is likely to get worse in the New Year.

On Friday afternoon, nearly 800 people were waiting in Accident & Emergency (A&E) departments across hospitals in Northern Ireland.

It comes as medics brace themselves for another busy bank holiday weekend.

Dr Black told UTV the pressure was down to a number of factors, including "a lot of chest infections" .

"Those are due to Covid, they're due to influenza, they're due to respiratory issues such as Bronchitis and we've also got the group A Strep infection," he explained.

"So a whole aggregation of different infections causing a lot of pressure in general practice and the whole service."

Dr Black added that the "next three or four months are going to be dreadful for the health service and for the people of Northern Ireland."

"Waiting lists are far too long, we don't have enough doctors, we don't have enough nurses, we don't have enough ambulances we don't have enough hospital beds," he said.

"We're going to really struggle through winter to around April time."

Dr Lee Casey is an out-of hours GP. Speaking to UTV he explained: "From 23rd to 28th December there were 2,700 calls to Western Urgent care, a 46% increase on the same period last year.

"We are coping but it is causing difficulties. Routine call backs are taking up to ten hours, sometimes longer."

In a statement, the Health Department paid tribute to staff "who are working tirelessly in extreme difficult conditions".

"The pressures on services have led to long waits for many patients," the statement added.

"If you believe your condition is a medical emergency, then a hospital Emergency Department is the right place to attend. Staff will continue to treat the sickest patients quickest, and less urgent cases have to wait longer.

"Please use all services responsibly and co-operate with hospital discharge process when you or a family member is well enough to leave."

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