NI A&E patients suffer worst waiting times in UK

Northern Ireland has had the highest UK percentage of waits of longer than four hours every month since 2012
Northern Ireland has had the highest UK percentage of waits of longer than four hours every month since 2012

Patients at Northern Ireland’s stretched emergency deparments are around 15 times more likely to endure 12-hour waiting times than patients just across the Irish Sea in Scotland, the News Letter can reveal.

There have been dire warnings about the state of emergency medicine in Northern Ireland in recent months as waiting times here continue to grow.

Data published by health authorities across the UK reveals the stark disparity between the performance of A&Es here and in Great Britain.

The most striking comparison is with our nearest UK neighbours, in Scotland.

In Scotland, which had more than double the number of patients through the doors of A&Es in 2018 than in Northern Ireland, 12-hour waits were recorded on around 3,700 occasions.

In Northern Ireland, with less than half the population and less than half the number of visits to A&Es, the equivalent figure is nearly 25,000.

In Scotland, where there were over 1.6 million A&E visits in 2018, around one in every 500 (0.22%) resulted in a patient waiting more than 12 hours in 2018.

In Northern Ireland, where there were 808,435 A&E visits in the same time period, just over 3% resulted in a 12-hour wait.

While waiting times are recorded slightly differently in England, making a comparison with 12-hour wait times across all UK regions difficult, every region has been recording the percentage of patients waiting over four hours since 2012.

And in every monthly update since that time, Northern Ireland has had a higher percentage waiting at least four hours than any other region.

In the most recent update, for the month of December, 33% of patients here waited at least four hours. In Scotland the figure was 10.4%, in England it was 13.6% and in Wales it was 22.2%.

Dr Ian Crawford, vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (Northern Ireland), said the situation in emergency rooms in Northern Ireland is deteriorating.

“While the crisis that is crowding in our EDs is not unique to NI it is clear that the situation is even worse for our patients and staff than anywhere else in the UK,” he said. “There continues to be a requirement for corrective investment to increase staffing, the number of acute hospital beds and the social care that are fundamentally required to meet the health and social care needs of our growing and ageing population.”