Northern Ireland news

A&E waiting times hit five-year high

The Department of Health has apologised for A&E waiting times
Seanín Graham

A DIRE picture of Northern's Ireland escalating waiting times have been revealed in a new government bulletin - with more than 25,000 breaches of 12-hour delays in A&E hospital departments.

The Department of Health yesterday apologised for the crisis and said the latest 2018/19 figures "starkly illustrate" pressures on emergency care and the wider system.

Response times for life-threatening calls by the ambulance service were also poor, with just 37 per cent of life-threatening calls responded to within the eight minute target last year.

Researchers compared the situation with five years ago and discovered a massive spike in A&E waiting times, with the Ulster hospital in Dundonald tackling the biggest increase.

They noted that between 2014/15 and 2018/19, the number of patients waiting longer than 12 hours "increased markedly" from 3,170 to 25,326.

The north has now the worst waiting list figures in the entire NHS, with repeated calls by department chiefs for the entire service to be overhauled.

In a statement, a department spokeswoman said: "We must again apologise to the significant and growing numbers of patients who have been waiting too long in our emergency departments.

"Clearly, the current model of care – the way we organise urgent and emergency services together with the flow of patients through our hospitals from admission to discharge – needs to change."

A health service 'summit' will be held next Tuesday as part of an ongoing review of emergency care. It will bring together up to 160 clinicians and representatives from organisations across the sector.

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