NI A&E targets missed despite fewer patients

More than a third of patients at emergency departments waited more than four hours for treatment over the past year, despite fewer patients overall turning up for care amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 6:30 am
Signage for the accident and emergency (A&E) department at Causeway Hospital in Northern Ireland. Picture date: Monday January 18, 2021.

Annual statistics outlining the performance of Northern Ireland’s emergency departments during the year ending March 31 2021 were published by the Department of Health at Stormont yesterday morning.

The figures show that 220,904 patients came through the doors of emergency departments during the last financial year when compared with the year before.

There were a total of 814,273 patients in the 2019/20 year, compared with 593,369 last year – a drop of more than a quarter.

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But despite dealing with fewer patients at emergency departments overall, performance against waiting time targets remained almost identical as health staff struggled to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic elsewhere in the health service.

The target of either treating or discharging patients within four hours of their arrival was hit for just 65% of patients last year, compared with 65.1% the year before.

A total of 37,884 – more than one in 20 patients – waited longer than 12 hours last year.