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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 22:28 GMT
Record numbers wait on trolleys

The number of people waiting on trolleys in Northern Ireland hospitals is one of the highest since records began four years ago.

More than 150 patients were lying in accident and emergency departments waiting for a bed on Tuesday morning, with the majority of those in the northern and eastern board areas.

Twenty-nine patients were on trollies at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald, 27 patients were in a similar position at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, Belfast City Hospital had 21 patients without beds while at the Mater Hospital that figure was 14.

It is thought respiratory illness and a shortage of beds were to blame.

Ken Fullerton, the medical director at Belfast City Hospital, said the situation had arisen due to the increase in the number of people who need to be admitted.

The situation has been described as "completely unacceptable" by the chairperson of the Eastern Health and Social Services Council, Jane Graham.

She added: "Patients generally are not complaining about this, they are accepting this as normal practice. And that is unacceptable."

Figures tripled

A spokesman for the Eastern Health Board said that it was not a crisis and that it was working towards reducing the numbers of trolley waits.

In a statement, the Department of Health in Northern Ireland said it regretted the so-called trolley waits but that a further 30 beds would be available within a few months.

"This has resulted from the high volume of cases which the hospitals are having to handle at the moment," it added.

"In preparation for the extra demands that would be made on services during the winter months, an additional 7m was allocated to support measures to deal with pressures this winter and this was used to create an additional 70 beds in hospitals throughout Northern Ireland.

"However, the substantial growth in the volume of cases presenting at our hospitals means that further investment is needed".

In June 2000 the health service began keeping track of trolley waits.

In November 2000, figures for the eastern and northern health board areas show a total of just over 300 people waiting on trolleys.

By November 2003 that figure had more than tripled to just under 1,200.

Big increase in trolley waits
04 Mar 03  |  Northern Ireland
Trolley waits at all time high
14 Nov 02  |  Northern Ireland
Watchdog warning over trolley waits
16 Jan 03  |  Northern Ireland
Waiting lists at record high
25 Dec 02  |  Northern Ireland

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