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Urgent and Emergency Care

Urgent and Emergency Care

Following a review of Urgent and Emergency Care across Northern Ireland in 2022, a number of priorities have been identified to transform and improve services so patients can receive the right care, from the right person, as quickly as possible.

The three priorities are:

  1. Creating an Integrated Urgent and Emergency Care Service
  2. Capacity, Co-ordination and Performance
  3. Intermediate Care

1) Creating an integrated Urgent and Emergency Care Service

An Integrated Urgent and Emergency Care Service will include:

  • Urgent Care services across Northern Ireland by winter 2023 where patients with illnesses and injuries which are not life threatening but require urgent attention can be assessed and treated. Patients can attend urgent care services via Phone First, GP referral or by walking in.
  • A range of Rapid Access Clinics so patients can be seen by the right clinical specialist for assessments, tests and diagnosis; without having to go through an Emergency Department. Appointments can be booked by GP practices and Phone First providers.
  • A regional Phone First service, accessed through the telephone number HSC 111 for help and advice in 2024. Patients will still call 999 for emergencies, serious illnesses or injuries.


2) Regional Unscheduled Care (USC) Capacity, Co-ordination and Performance  

This workstream will:

  • Identify changes required in Emergency Departments to improve care and patient outcomes in 2023.
  • Improve processes and arrangements for ambulance arrival and handover zones in Emergency Departments in Royal Victoria, Ulster, Craigavon Area, Antrim and Altnagelvin Hospitals.
  • support the timely transfer of patients who are ready for discharge, to the most appropriate setting.


3) Intermediate Care

Intermediate Care services provide temporary care to help you recover and increase your independence following a stay in hospital from illness or a fall

This will consider four areas:

  • Hospital at home (acute care at home) – intensive hospital-level care provided to people at home, on a short term basis. This would be for acute conditions that would normally require care in a hospital bed.
  • Bed-based intermediate care
  • Home-based intermediate care
  • Reablement – care and treatment to promote confidence and maximise independence so people can remain in their own home for as long as possible.

Phone First

Phone First is a telephone service available for members of the public who are unwell and considering travelling to an Emergency Department.

When you make a call, you will be medically assessed on the phone by a health professional and will then be given advice and, if required, directed to the most appropriate urgent or community service to meet your treatment or care needs.

This could include an appointment to attend an Emergency Department, an Urgent Care Centre, a Minor Injuries Unit or being redirected to a GP, Pharmacist or other service.  The service is  available all Health and Social Care Trusts:

For more information, see – Phone First FAQs

Phone First does not replace 999 – it is for those patients considering attending an emergency department with a non-life-threatening issue.

For all emergencies that are life threatening, always call 999 immediately.

This can include: stroke, heart attack, loss of consciousness, breathing difficulties, severe bleeding or major trauma.

Urgent Care

Urgent Care services are one of the new ways that hospital and GP/primary care staff teams are working together to assess and treat patients, adults and children, who present with illnesses and injuries which require urgent attention but are not life threatening.

Rapid Access Clinics

These services enable your GP to make direct appointments for you to be seen rapidly by the right specialist (Nurse, Consultant, Allied Health Professional) for assessments, tests, diagnosis; without having to go through an Emergency Department.

If required, patients will be provided ongoing support at hospital or community clinics.