A new funding package from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland will be used to procure disability and community care equipment to help the country cope with winter pressures.
The department announced an additional £3m will be used to help health and social care services combat increased demand during the winter months.
Other key areas the funding will target are recruitment of staff for domiciliary care and care package provision for older people with dementia.
Hospitals across NI are facing ongoing winter pressures, resulting in growing numbers of patients experiencing long waits in emergency departments (EDs).
The situation in EDs reflects wider pressures on the HSC system, involving staffing, community care and bed capacity.
A central factor behind the rising demand for ED care is the increasing numbers of older people with multiple health problems – often requiring longer in-patient stays and more complex community care packages when they are discharged.
Health service organisations have repeatedly made clear that the 2018/19 winter period would again bring serious challenges.
Mitigation measures have been put in place by Trusts to help ease pressures where possible.
Data released this week for the period 24 December to 15 January shows hospital EDs performing better than the same period a year ago, despite a rise in attendances and admissions.
Demand for ED care has, however, continued to increase during this month.
The Department of Health’s permanent secretary, Richard Pengelly, said: “We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to staff for working through these pressures.
“We are sorry that too many patients continue to experience long waits. All feasible steps to ease the pressures are being taken. “Every one of us can also all do our bit to help staff help us. That means using services appropriately and doing all we can to help stay well.”