Northern Ireland Ambulance Service warns pressure on system 'putting lives at risk'

The daughter of a 96-year-old man has spoken of her frustration after her father waited 32 hours for hospital treatment.

Maureen Newell's father Tommy suffered difficulties after his catheter came out in his care home.

He spent 16 hours waiting on an ambulance in his care home before then spending 16 hours waiting in an ambulance outside the Ulster Hospital to be seen by a doctor.

Maureen said it was quite an ordeal for her father and her family.

“A doctor came out in the middle of the night to try to work on my dad in the ambulance and he couldn't do it and he apologised and we just waited and waited and waited."

Finally when they got to first in the queue for an ambulance, they were told not to get excited given the lengthy delays in the system.

“One of the paramedics that came on at 8.30pm was still with us at 10.30am the following morning. So they couldn’t get out to help other people."

Maureen said it was tough for her dad given his age: “I couldn’t believe it…. He is 96 and lying in an ambulance all that time and then he’s been transferred from one ambulance to another three times and that’s not nice either.

"I know they have to prioritise and I understand that, what I don’t understand is an ambulance crew comes on and they are sitting 14 hours with one patient and they can’t get out to emergency calls, I just don’t understand that.

“I’m frustrated because I don’t know who to talk to and the powers that be, I would just love somebody that has the wisdom and the know-how to do something… because there does not seem to be anything done.” 

She added: “Unfortunately it is not only my dad and us. It is happening too much and I would like these people at Stormont to get back to work and do something or else they shouldn’t be getting paid.”

The Ambulance Service said the situation was not ideal and apologised to those who faced long waits.

A spokesman said ambulances were delayed by long turn arounds at hospitals and this would have negative impacts on patient outcomes as well as impacting on staff.

The South Eastern Trust said it can't comment on any patient in order to protect confidentiality.

In a statement, it added: "Long waiting times are regrettably being experienced across every Trust in the Region and have been well documented over the Christmas and New Year period.

"This is not the service we want to be providing. Unfortunately demand for care continues to outstrip current capacity.

Staff in our Emergency Department, who liaise very closely with our colleagues in NIAS, are working very hard to see patients as quickly as possible, according to clinical need.

"Patient safety remains our priority.

"Teams across the hospital and in the community are working together to ensure that every effort is being made to discharge patients who no longer need an acute hospital bed, transferring patients to wards across the Trust and admitting patients to the Emergency Department as soon as they can.

"To help alleviate pressures within our Emergency Department and on NIAS, we would appeal to patients to leave hospital when they are deemed medically fit. If patients are waiting for a care home placement or package of care, Trust staff will provide an alternative suitable placement until the patient’s first choice becomes available."

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