More than twice as many A&E patients waiting longer than 12 hours for treatment than a year ago
MORE than twice as many patients are waiting longer than 12 hours for treatment in A&E departments than last year, with Health Minister Robin Swann branding his department's latest statistics "not good enough".
Last month 64,872 people attended emergency departments across Northern Ireland - 5,280 waiting for more than 12 hours and a further 4.8 per cent leaving "before their treatment was complete".
The increase came despite the number of people seeking treatment falling by 2.6 per cent from 66,636 in December 2018.
The proportion of patients treated and discharged, or admitted within four hours of their arrival, at the north's major emergency departments fell to 54.8 per cent compared with 62.2 per cent in December 2018.
There was also a fall, from 82.7 per cent to 78.9 per cent in patients attending a smaller `Type 2' A&E in December 2019 who were treated and discharged, or admitted within four hours, where there were also 2.7 per cent more people seeking help.
The longest average waiting time stood at 10 hours 34 minutes in Altnagelvin Area and the shortest in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children at four hours 11 minutes.
Draft ministerial targets for emergency care waiting times state "no patient attending any Emergency Care Department should wait longer than 12 hours".
More patients have also been attending casualty departments after being referred by their GPs, with 18 per cent compared with 17.1 per cent in last year.
The statistics come a week after the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGPNI) called for a "full roll out" of Multi-Disciplinary Teams (MDTs) across Northern Ireland, where doctors, physiotherapists, mental health professionals and social workers are together in practices.
Chairman Dr Laurence Dorman said early feedback from five pilots showed a quantifiable reduction in hospital referrals.
The health minister has asked for a full explanation of the delays from health chiefs.
"These figures are simply not good enough. The people of Northern Ireland deserve better," said Robin Swann.
"I have written to the chief executives of each of the trusts, requesting detailed assessments of the situation.
"Looking to the longer-term, I welcome the fact that the department is progressing a clinically-led review of urgent and emergency care, with a view to transforming services.
"An initial report is expected shortly, which will outline the current challenges and explore some potential solutions."