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Help health and social care services to help you over the holidays


While many of us can take some time off over the holiday period, our dedicated health and social care staff are planning for another busy holiday period – predicted to be the most challenging ever.

However, rather than simply leaving them to deal with it alone, we can all take actions which will help ease some of that pressure.

Many of our hospitals are working beyond capacity at present with many very ill patients waiting for hospital beds.

Bed pressures are set to increase in the weeks ahead, driven by traditional winter illnesses and continued Coronavirus infection.

At midday on 14 December 2021, across the five Health and Social Care Trusts there were 241 people waiting in Emergency Departments with a decision to admit.

At the same time there were 182 people whose discharge from hospital was delayed by the need for suitable domiciliary care package or care home placement to facilitate their discharge.

Meanwhile, some 569 care home beds were reported as available to Trusts which could be used as step-down options. A week later on 21 December, 59 of those delayed had been discharged to a care home. This meant that 128 of those who were fit for discharge remained in hospital a week later.

Brendan Whittle, Director of Social Care and Children with the Health and Social Care Board said:

“As we face into the holiday period with the expected rise in the rates of Omicron and we consider our current position in terms of those people who are medically fit to leave hospital, we need your help.

“If you are a family member, please do all you can to support your loved one to leave hospital as soon as possible. Also, if you are waiting for domiciliary care and your care arrangements are not immediately available, please talk to the hospital staff, please step down to a care home, your fees will be waived and please leave hospital so that we can free up vital beds.”


Brendan Whittle makes discharge appeal from HSC Board on Vimeo.

Over the holidays, if you or some of your family members feel unwell, it is important, to choose the service most appropriate to your symptoms, so you can get better quicker.

Emergency departments (EDs) across Northern Ireland are continuing to deal with hundreds of cases that are considered ‘non-urgent.’

In the period March through to September this year, some 4,280 patients were triaged as ‘non-urgent’ in our EDs. Those non-urgent cases can only be addressed by staff when time permits, leading to long waits for people in over-crowded EDs as staff prioritise patients with life threatening and urgent conditions.

Emergency Department Consultant Dr Eoghan Ferrie insisted that staff would always do their best to treat patients that attended ED.

“If you have a life threatening condition or are seriously ill or injured then the Emergency Department is the appropriate place to go,” he said.

“Staff are continuing to work unbelievably hard to ensure that patients receive the treatment and care that they need. We know that will mean some people will wait longer to be treated in EDs, or to be admitted to hospital, than normal.

“Please be patient and support us trying to support you.”

Consider other options – which may be available in your area – such as the Phone First service or an Urgent Care Centre when dealing with illness or injury that is not life threatening.

Self-care is the best choice to treat most minor illnesses, ailments and injuries. A range of common illnesses such as aches and pains, colds, upset stomachs and sore throats can be treated with over the counter medicines from your community pharmacist and plenty of rest.

GP practices are also offering additional same day urgent clinical triage consultations and remaining open at lunch time with no half day closures for the working week over the holiday period.

Please be patient, staff are doing their best in a very difficult situation. Abuse of staff will not be tolerated.

There are other simple and effective ways in which the public can support Health and Care Services over the holiday period:

  • Ensuring you get your vaccines – COVID, booster and flu
  • Getting your COVID passport
  • Wash your hands
  • Wear a mask
  • Limit your contacts