A&E services no longer available at Belfast City Hospital

01/11/2011

At 8am today the Accident and Emergency Department at the Belfast City Hospital closed.  This temporary measure is needed, due to a shortage in medical staff which could not be filled – despite a national and international recruitment drive.

Patients who require emergency treatment should attend at either the Royal Victoria Hospital or Mater Hospital Accident and Emergency Department. Accident & Emergency services for children up to 14yrs will continue to be provided at Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

Last year Belfast Trust treated more than 145,000 patients who became acutely unwell or needed very urgent care. Additional capacity has been created at both units; the A&E Department at the Mater Hospital has been reorganised to provide four new short stay beds and an additional four patient cubicles while the Royal A&E now has a further 9-bedded Clinical Unit. Community services have also been enhanced to support discharges and prevent unnecessary admissions.

Acute Assessment Unit and the Medical Admissions Unit

GPs will have access 24/7 to senior medical personnel in the new Acute Assessment Unit and the Medical Admissions Unit at the Belfast City Hospital and an assessment and admission facility will be in place until 12 midnight seven days a week in the Cancer Centre on the Belfast City Hospital campus for those patients in active treatment or within six weeks of treatment.

The need to close the City Hospital’s A&E unit on a temporary basis arose from a shortage in medical staff which could not be filled – despite a national and international recruitment drive.

Chief Executive, Colm Donaghy, explains, ‘We simply don’t have enough medical staff to run three adult departments in Belfast. The new arrangements will stay in place until we recruit the right level of staff or until we complete a widespread public consultation on the best way to permanently deliver the A&E services needed in Belfast.’

Communicating the change

Work has been ongoing to ensure the changes are communicated to a wide number of stakeholders including patients, clients, carers, public representatives, trade unions and voluntary and community groups. The campaign has included a household leaflet drop, radio, newspaper and public transport advertisements, electronic signage for drivers and poster displays in GP surgeries.

Transport Arrangements

Following discussions between the Trust, Northern Ireland Ambulance and the Health and Social Care Board, additional transport arrangements are in place to ensure appropriate transfer of patients. This enables the Trust’s acute service to continue as one hospital service operating across three across adult acute sites.

Colm Donaghy continued, ‘Change is never easy but the staff who work for Belfast Trust will continue to do their best to ensure that all of patients receive the best service possible.’