We know the facts about accident and emergency departments – the overcrowding, the trolleys, the risks and the dangers. We know the knock-on effects, which have meant people being delayed in getting treatment they are awaiting. We know there have been warnings and there has been the certainty that things would get worse. We do not seem to be very good at prevention in this country and there seem to be issues around Christmas time and staffing problems, which if addressed could have prevented this situation escalating.
We know one of the issues is delayed discharge to nursing homes, and this is at a time when there are nursing home beds unoccupied. In addition, some people present at accident and emergency departments needing minor procedures that could be looked after by their doctors or in primary care centres. There is a solution there. We know the solution is more investment in community services.
We have a major alcohol and drug addiction problem in this country. We know that between a quarter and a fifth of beds in accident and emergency departments and hospitals are taken up by people who have addiction issues. People who present at accident and emergency departments, drink-fuelled, drug-fuelled or a mixture of both, provide very challenging behaviour for staff. They also cause great anxiety and stress, particularly for elderly people in accident and emergency departments. Alcohol addiction is an illness and these people need treatment, but there is a need for a separate facility because sometimes they just need a space to sleep it off or be hydrated. I acknowledge what Beaumont Hospital does in trying to link people in with services.
I mention intellectual disability in accident and emergency departments. These are vulnerable people, particularly those with autism, who are very sensitive to noise and light and cannot cope with accident and emergency departments. Equally there is an issue with ageing people with an intellectual disability and the problems that come with ageing. As a result of the moratorium and the cutbacks, they are going in there. There is no registered disability nurse in accident and emergency departments who could support these people. Equally, with the cutbacks there is nobody from the community organisations who could act as support for those people. We need to look at having the right staff to support those two particular groups.