Northern Ireland’s A&E units still failing to meet waiting time targets

The Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye.
The Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye.
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Waiting time targets for Northern Ireland’s A&E departments were breached more than 700 times between April and June this year, according to the latest figures.

A report from the Department of Health reveals that the majority of the 739 cases - where patients waited longer than 12 hours to be treated, discharged or admitted - occurred at the Royal Victoria (RVH) in Belfast.

The report said: “The ministerial target for emergency care waiting times has not been achieved during any of the last three months (April - June 2014) as one or more components of the target were not met.”

It said performance declined notably at the RVH during the three months.

In April, a total of 67 patients waited more than 12 hours in the RVH A&E department, rising to 190 breaches in June.

The Royal includes Northern Ireland’s regional trauma centre which handles serious cases from across the Province and the largest number of emergency department patients.

A major incident was called at the hospital in January this year when a the number of people left waiting on trolleys became excessive.

Around 100 staff members interviewed by inspectors raised concerns about staffing levels, bullying, intolerable pressure and a dysfunctional healthcare system.

Inspectors also found that not enough medics were available at times in the Royal’s emergency department to treat patients satisfactorily.

Colm Donaghy, chief executive of the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, resigned in March this year.

The current waiting time targets, set by health minister Edwin Poots, states that 95 per cent of A&E patients should be dealt with four hours of arrival, and that no patient should wait longer than 12 hours.

Last month there were 62,193 attendances at emergency care departments across Northern Ireland - up from 60,142 in April.

While the RVH showed a downturn in performance over the quarter, Antrim Area Hospital’s A&E recorded an improvement in 12-hour waiting times with 122 breaches in April compared to 63 in June.

There were no reports of any patients waiting more than 12 hours at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry, the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine or the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen.

Craigavon Area Hospital, the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and Newry’s Daisy Hill Hospital, each reported only one patient waiting in excess of 12 hours between April and June.