Average wait ‘over 40 hours’ for bed at Altnagelvin

THE Save Our Acute Services (SOAS) group has claimed it takes an average time of ‘over 40 hours’ for emergency surgical patients to get a bed in the Altnagelvin Hospital.

As part of a large submission made by SOAS to the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), the campaign highlighted how patients from SWAH are being forced to endure a ‘double ED’ journey.

Patients are triaged and assessed in SWAH only to be sent to Altnagelvin ED where they are triaged again and re-assessed.


The Western Trust undertook in November 2022 to maintain ring-fenced beds in Ward 31 in Altnagelvin to ‘minimise the likelihood of patients transferring from one Emergency Department to another’.

However, according to SOAS, patients – who should go directly to a bed in Ward 31 – are repeatedly being sent from SWAH ED to Altnagelvin ED.

The campaign group provided the regulatory authority with figures obtained from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) confirming that 90 per cent of patients they are transferring from SWAH are being brought to ED in Altnagelvin – showing that the practice is widespread, SOAS said.

Department of Health statistics for December 2023 show average ‘triage to bed’ times at SWAH ED of 12 hours, 39 minutes, and Altnagelvin Area ED of 21 hours, 52 minutes. These figures when combined with the average ambulance transfer time show an average ‘double ED’ journey time for surgical patients of more than 40 hours.

SOAS spokesperson Donal O’Cofaigh said the figures showed that emergency surgical patients who attend SWAH were being neglected.

“The fact that it can take – on average – over 40 hours to get from presentation at SWAH ED to a ward bed in Altnagelvin is undoubtedly grossly unfair to patients from the South West region,” Mr O’Cofaigh explained.

“No one else in Northern Ireland has to go through this ‘double ED’ journey. This would not be necessary if a sustainable service of emergency general surgery with appropriate rota cover was returned to SWAH.


“Such a return would also serve to reinforce the development of the Elective Overnight Stay Centre in SWAH – freeing up desperately needed theatre capacity in our hospital network.

“The ‘double ED’ experience shows the second-class health care that our community is now receiving. The Department of Health must intervene and safeguard the basic human rights of the population of the South West region.”

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