The number of people waiting more than 12 hours for treatment at Northern Ireland’s emergency departments has doubled since last year.
The latest emergency care waiting time statistics, published by the Department of Health on Thursday, show that in June this year there were 2,835 patients forced to wait at least 12 hours for treatment at a hospital emergency department.
That represents around 4% of all the patients who showed up at an emergency department in Northern Ireland last month, from a total of 70,289.
In June last year, the number of people forced to wait 12 hours or more was 1,365 – less than half this year’s total.
This is in spite of a slight drop in the total number of patients – down from 70,741 in June last year.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine said both staff and patients deserve better.
Dr Ian Crawford, the medical body’s vice president for Northern Ireland, said: “Staff working in emergency departments in Northern Ireland are fighting an uphill battle to provide excellent care to our patients in the face of increasing demand and reduced capacity in our hospitals. Our staff and patients deserve better.”
Last month, the Department of Health at Stormont apologised for the waiting times and highlighted an ongoing review of emergency medicine.
But Dr Crawford said: “Those leading the review of urgent and emergency care must learn the lessons from other parts of the UK. Initiatives aimed at directing people away from emergency departments do not address increasing demand and the needs of our growing and ageing population.
“To ease pressure placed on emergency departments, we need to build capacity through increasing staffing, the number of acute hospital beds, and the social care that are fundamentally required.”
Ulster Unionist health spokesperson, Roy Beggs MLA, called for the new Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith to intervene.
“I would urge the new secretary of state to intervene for the sake of patients and medical workers across the country,” he said.