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A&E waiting times deteriorating, new figures show

Only 70 per cent of patients attending a major A&E department were seen within a four-hour target last month

ACCIDENT and emergency waiting times have continued to deteriorate, with just seven out of 10 patients being treated, admitted or discharged within a four-hour target last month.

Figures from the Department of Health show the performance at major A&E departments was down around three per cent compared to the same month the previous year.

Ministerial targets state that 95 per cent of patients should be seen within four hours.

The worst-performing accident and emergency department was at the Causeway hospital in Coleraine, Co Derry, where only around 60 per cent of patients were seen within the target last month.

The number of people having to wait more than 12 hours across Northern Ireland also increased.

The figures showed that 281 patients had a 12-hour wait last month, compared to 236 in June 2015.

However, the number of people being admitted to accident and emergency departments also rose by 5.1 per cent - around 3,200 patients.

Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson said she was deeply concerned by the figures.

She pointed out that the average wait time for patients has also increased.

"Whilst most attendances were discharged home within 6 hours 22 minutes of their arrival at the main emergency departments across Northern Ireland, this was 16 minutes longer than the same period last year," she said.

She added: "The current delays in receiving treatment, which would have been unimaginable and frightening only a few years ago, are directly contributing to conditions worsening and I am repeatedly told by medical practioners that hospitals are not always a safe place for patients if they do not absolutely need to be there".

The statistics were released as health minister Michelle O'Neill received a report yesterday into an overhaul of health and social care in the north.

The report, which has not been made public, was compiled by a panel headed by Professor Rafael Bengoa, director of the health department at the Deusto Business School in Spain.

Ms O'Neill said she would take time to consider the report and publish her response to the recommendations in the autumn.

"Provided I can secure the necessary resources, I plan to use this work as a foundation for my own vision for the long term future of health and social care in the north," she said.

Professor Bengoa said there was "strong appetite for reform" amongst healthcare workers.

“Our task has been to make recommendations on a future health and social care model which will deliver a financially sustainable service, providing high quality outcomes in the face of changing patterns of demand," he said.

"Patients have been at the heart of our interactions with all stakeholders and it is with them in mind that our recommendations propose a sustainable community based health care system for the future."

A previous report by Sir Liam Donaldson, published last year, said there were too many hospitals and expertise was spread too thinly.

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