Northern Ireland hospital pressures to last at least another month chief scientific advisor warns

Unprecedented hospital pressures are not expected to ease for at least another month, the Chief Scientific Advisor has warned. 

Professor Ian Young told UTV that a predicted rise in Covid-19 and flu infections will add further pressures to the health service.

"In terms of the risk of both Covid and influenza, January and February are going to be potentially difficult. That will add to the challenges our hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes potentially face," he said. 

Last month Covid cases reached a high level of one in six. This is expected to rise throughout January and February. A significant increase in flu cases is expected in the next two weeks. 

Hospitals faced another busy weekend. At lunchtime on Monday 375 patients were waiting in Emergency Departments for a bed. Almost 350 people had been waiting more than 12 hours. 

The pressure has been continuous over the Christmas period.

From December 23 to 28 there were 2,700 calls to Western Urgent care, representing a 46% increase on the same period last year.

The health service has been under relentless pressure. Last week UTV reported of a 75-year-old grandmother who was accidently left in a wheelchair in a toilet for more than an hour.

It comes as talks between unions and ministers aimed at resolving further strike action failed to find resolution.

The majority of health workers are to receive at least an additional £1,400 in pay while doctors and dentists will be given a 4.5% rise by the end of the financial year after the government accepted the recommendations of the independent pay review body.However unions have said this is not enough and nurses across the country are asking for a pay increase of 5% above RPI inflation, which is equal to a 19% rise.

The Royal College of Nursing said the meeting was "bitterly disappointing."

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