Intended for healthcare professionals

News NHS Crisis: Voices from the Front Line

Northern Irish medics speak out: “It feels like we’re going to war”

BMJ 2023; 380 doi: (Published 12 January 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;380:p91
  1. Chris Baraniuk
  1. Belfast

“Three. Two. One. Happy New Year.” Richard Owens never anticipated saying these words with a paramedic in the back of an ambulance. But that’s exactly what he did at midnight on 31 December 2022. He was with an older relative waiting for admission to the emergency department at a Belfast hospital.

Their three hour wait in the vehicle ended at 00:30 with more waiting inside. The next day, Owens, who works in the agricultural industry, witnessed people packed into one of the main areas. “I was horrified, to be honest with you,” he recalled. “Trolleys upon trolleys just put everywhere. It was like sardines in a tin.”

Northern Ireland’s health system is in crisis. It already had the worst waiting lists in the UK,1 but emergency department pressures have rocketed in recent weeks. An inquiry is under way to …

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