The Department of Health (DOH) has apologised to the “significant and growing numbers of patients who have been waiting too long” in Northern Ireland’s hospital emergency departments.
Newly published government figures for 2018/19 reveal that 25,326 of the 822,847 people who attended A&E departments waited more than 12 hours to be either treated and discharged, or admitted – a massive increase on the 2014/15 figure when the number of people waiting longer than 12 hours was just 3,170.
However, almost 80% of patients attending A&E commenced their treatment within two hours of being triaged, and nearly 70% of patients were dealt with within four hours.
According to the statistics, the total number of emergency department attendances has increased by 111,857 (15.1%) over the past five years.
The department said the latest waiting time figures “starkly illustrate the pressures on our emergency departments and on the wider health and social care system.”
Stressing that the “current model of care needs to change”, the DOH said a summit will be held on June 25 to help shape public consultation later this year on a new model of urgent and emergency care for Northern Ireland.
"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," the department's statement said.
"Demand for care continues to increase and pressures traditionally experienced at winter time are now present throughout the year.
"A health service summit will be held next week (June 25) as part of the Department’s ongoing review of urgent and emergency care. It will bring together up to 160 clinicians, patient voices and representatives from organisations across the Health and Social Care (HSC) system.
"The summit will help shape a public consultation later this year on a new model of urgent and emergency care for Northern Ireland."