Northern Ireland

Health service gets additional £3m to mitigate winter pressures

Nurse Image copyright MartinPrescott
Image caption A growing older population with chronic conditions, requiring longer stays in hospital, is impacting services

The Department of Health has announced an additional £3m to help health and social care services deal with ongoing winter pressures.

It is to be targeted at key areas, including the recruitment of more staff to provide domiciliary care packages.

The investment will also go towards equipment for those with disabilities.

Hospitals across Northern Ireland are under strain, with growing numbers of patients experiencing long waits in A&E departments.

The situation reflects wider pressures on the HSC system involving staffing, community care and bed capacity.

While the number of people attending A&E is up by eight percent in recent weeks compared to the same time last year, the number of 12-hour breaches is down by 22%.

Analysis by BBC News NI Health Correspondent Marie-Louise Connolly

Two weeks into the new year, Northern Ireland's A&E departments are starting to feel the strain.

A growing older population with chronic conditions, requiring longer stays in hospital, is impacting services.

A shortage of care packages in the community is preventing older patients from being discharged.

While investment is positive, £3m pounds will be spent in months.

Health service organisations have previously warned that the 2018/19 winter period would bring serious challenges.

They say mitigation measures have been put in place to help ease pressures where possible.

Department of Health Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said: "We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to staff for working through these pressures. We are sorry that too many patients continue to experience long waits. All feasible steps to ease the pressures are being taken."

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