Healthcare staff 'doing their best' at Northern Ireland's busiest hospital

UTV was invited to spend two days filming inside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast - Northern Ireland's busiest hospital - to see first hand the pressures staff are under. 

The reports from the visit are part of a UTV News special on the current state of the health service.

UTV spoke to staff and patients across many parts of the hospital site. 

Bed and workforce shortages mean that planned surgeries and procedures are having to be postponed on a daily basis.

Over in the Vascular Ward, staff said that some patients are having their procedures postponed three or four times. 

Mr Louis Lau, Consultant Vascular Surgeon, said these are time critical surgeries. 

"The team has been doing the best trying to prioritise in terms of clinical need," Mr Lau told UTV.

"According to the population statistics we should be running a Vascular Unit with 50 beds and with 19 vascular surgeons and we are way behind it.

"The health service has been seeing a mass exodus of qualified staff, including nurses, doctors and consultants. Recruitment has been unable to keep up."

In a statement the Department of Health said it remained "deeply concerned" about the ongoing pressures on staff and service and added that "the last three years have been the most challenging period for the NHS in its 75-year history."

There are concerns that the next year budget will make things even more challenging for the health service.

The department warned that the need for cuts that reduce service levels cannot be ruled out. 

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