England’s ‘worst ever’ A&E performance still better than NI
Figures published by NHS England show that around one in six patients (16.4%) had to wait more than four hours at A&E during October.
That represents the worst performance against the four-hour waiting time target ever recorded in England.
The figures were described as “bleak” by leading health figures amid warnings the NHS in England is under “intolerable pressure”.
But the figures for Northern Ireland are significantly worse.
The figures published by NHS England show better performance against the four-hour target than any of the emergency care waiting time figures published in Northern Ireland over the past two years.
The most recent statistics available for Northern Ireland cover the month of September.
In September, more than a third (34.5%) of patients had to wait at least four hours at A&E to be either treated and sent home or admitted to hospital.
The Department of Health at Stormont say there are some differences in the way the data is recorded in comparison with NHS England, but accept the waiting times in Northern Ireland are significantly longer here.
There have been repeated apologies from Northern Ireland health bosses over the past few years as waiting times have grown considerably.
UUP health spokesman Roy Beggs said: “Whilst the waiting times in England are definitely cause for concern, they reality is they’re significantly worse here.
“With England now witnessing its worst ever A&E waiting times on record there are growing calls for heads to roll. Yet in Northern Ireland, with the shameful absence of a local minister or Executive, nothing is being done to tackle the crisis here.
“Over the last few years I’ve been increasingly saying that our hospital waiting times would be an absolute scandal if they were occurring anywhere else in the United Kingdom.
“Yet every publication of waiting time statistics is worse than the last and sets a new record for being the worst in history. There are only so many times we can express horror at the deteriorating problems across our health service.”
Mr Beggs’ party colleague, former UUP leader Lord Empey, has been calling in recent months for health powers to be transferred to Westminster in a bid to tackle the crisis.
Mr Beggs added: “The situation is wholly untenable and that is why I really believe it is time responsibility for health matters should be handed back to Westminster.”
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the NHS England figures “show a service under intolerable pressure”.
He added: “It looks as if we are heading for a very tough winter in England.”