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DUP South Antrim MLA and Vice-Chair of Stormont’s Health Committee Pam Cameron has expressed concern at new statistics which confirm there were 22,084 fewer attendances at emergency departments across Northern Ireland in March 2020 compared to the same period last year.

Commenting on the publication of the Department of Health’s emergency care waiting time statistics for January to March 2020, Mrs Cameron said:

‘‘These figures paint an extremely worrying picture. In March attendance at local emergency departments fell by 31% - totalling 22,084 fewer cases - when compared with the same four-week period in 2019. This is particularly concerning given that the comparative records for April and May – generally viewed as the focal point of the first wave of Covid-19 – have not yet been compiled.

These statistics confirm anecdotal reports by clinicians and staff in emergency care that people have been increasingly reluctant to come forward to seek help as a result of the publicised threat of transmission of Coronavirus. Whilst it is understandable that in some areas, including workplace or sports-based injuries, attendances have declined, research indicates that there are also those with serious illnesses such as heart disease or cancer who have chosen not to present for treatment. This seriously risks delayed prognosis and treatment.

It is critical that Northern Ireland does not ultimately emerge from this pandemic only to be faced by an equally dangerous and deadly threat from undiagnosed and untreated non-Covid related illness.

As a Party we are calling on the Department of Health to outline a clear timetable for the resumption of normal health and social care services to ensure that every patient and every life - whether affected by Covid-19 or another condition - is treated fairly and equally as local NHS and care capacity available continues to increase. In the meantime we are clear the central message of ‘stay at home’ does not apply to those in need of emergency care. The public should continue to seek help when it is needed.’’