Northern Ireland news

Record number of patients failing to be treated, admitted or discharged from Northern Ireland's major A&Es within department of health four-hour target.

The Royal Victoria Hospital reported the longest average time spent in an A&E, with eight hours and seven minutes from patient arrival to admission to the hospital

RECORD number of patients are failing to be treated, admitted or discharged from Northern Ireland's major A&Es within the department of health's own four-hour target.

The number of patients treated by the time limit at the 10 `Type 1 EDs' across the north has fallen 6.6 percentage points on 2019 figures.

The department's latest statistics show more than one in three people (38.7 per cent) seeking emergency treatment did not see a medic after their initial `triage' assessment by a nurse for at least four hours after walking through the doors.

The target to be seen within that time is 95 per cent.

Last month, the Royal Victoria Hospital reported the longest average time spent in an A&E, with eight hours and seven minutes from patient arrival to admission to the hospital.

Across the north the number of patients waiting longer than 12 hours increased from 1,365 to 2,835 between June 2018 and June 2019.

The picture may even be more grim than the statistics suggest, with Northern Ireland hospitals `stopping the clock' on patients requiring ambulances "when staff request an ambulance" rather than when the patient actually leaves A&E as in other parts of the UK, according the department of health guidance on the figures.

The worsening picture increases pressure on health chiefs, who are less than a year away from their commitment to ensure at least 80 per cent of patients to have started treatment within two hours.

They have pledged to reach this target by March 2020.

Minor injuries units were the only A&E departments to have improved their performance in the past year, treating and discharging almost all of their patients within four hours of their arrival.

Latest waiting time figures from the department health for the largely rural hospital doctor or nurse-led units at Mid-Ulster in Magherafelt, Ards, Bangor, South Tyrone in Dungannon and Omagh show them meeting their target with 99.7 per cent of patients.

Eight in 10 patients at `Type 2 EDs' were treated and discharged, or admitted within four hours of their arrival.

However, this figure, for RVH (Eye Casualty) unit, Lagan Valley in Lisburn and Downe in Downpatrick - which all have limited opening hours - also represents a worsening performance, down 3.7 percentage points from June 2018.

UUP health spokesman Roy Beggs said with the situation "getting worse with every passing day", new secretary of state Julian Smith must step in.

"This is not a blip, or a short-term problem - our health service is in the midst of its worst ever waiting times crisis," he said.

"People are coming to harm because they can't get the right type of treatment when they need it.

"The fact that more than 2,800 patients in June had to wait longer than 12 hours is frightening not only in its scale, but also due to the fact that June should be traditionally one of the most quiet months in the year for the local health service.

"... Our hospitals are going to face immense challenges as the winter flu period approaches."

He said tackling lack of beds, lack of staff and "inadequate care packages in the community" would be "transformational".

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