Local people have been urged to think carefully before turning up at Accident and Emergency amid ongoing pressures on services.
Within the past 24 hours, the Western Trust, the Health and Social Care Board and the Public Health Agency have issued appeals to people to consider other options unless their situation is an emergency or they require urgent care.
This comes after a ‘major incident’ was declared at Altnagelvin Area Hospital’s Emergency Department on Monday.
The Western Health and Social Care Trust confirmed the ‘major incident’ arose as a direct result of large numbers of patients.
Average waiting times to see a nurse or doctor at the Emergency Department at Altnagelvin as of Thursday morning were around four hours, although those with less urgent conditions have been advised that they will face longer waiting times than others.
A spokesperson for the Western Trust said: “Emergency Departments provide the highest level of emergency care for patients, especially those with sudden and acute illness or severe trauma.
“Patients with less critical injuries or ailments such as colds and sore throats do not require treatment in an ED and at busy periods patients who have been assessed and do not require immediate treatment will wait longer.
“You can stay up to date with waiting times in our Emergency Departments by clicking: www.nidirect.gov.uk/emergency-department-waiting-times.
The spokesperson added: “The public has a really important role to play in helping ease the pressures on EDs.
“Think twice before coming to the Emergency Department and only come here if you have a serious and urgent condition here are other services available like Minor Injuries, GP or GP Out of Hours and Pharmacies that can help you. For more information about the services that are available to you, click here: www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/stay-well.
The Health and Social Care Board and Public Health Agency meanwhile has also advised that Emergency Departments across Northern Ireland are currently experiencing very high levels of pressure.
In a joint statement they said: “The public can assist by only attending an Emergency Department if their condition is urgent, so helping to ensure that the sickest patients get the care they need.
“The HSCB and PHA are urging the public to consider other care options available to them such as their GP, nearest Minor Injury Unit or local pharmacy if their symptoms are not urgent or life threatening.
“By choosing the most appropriate service, patients will receive the right treatment in the right place and will help alleviate pressures on other urgent care services at this very busy time.
“Emergency Departments provide the highest level of emergency care for patients, especially those with sudden and acute illness or severe trauma. Patients who present at Emergency Departments will always be dealt with in order of clinical priority, so more acutely ill patients will be seen first.
“It is regrettable that some people are having to wait longer to be treated in Emergency Departments or to be admitted to hospital at this time.
“The HSCB and PHA are currently working closely with all Health and Social Care Trusts to optimise the flow of patients within hospitals and will continue to monitor the situation.”