Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

A&E waiting times have trebled despite threat of fines

The number of patients who waited more than 12 hours in casualty last month almost trebled compared to the same time last year, new figures have revealed.

The huge jump — from 541 patients last February to 1,338 patients last month — means health bosses would have accrued a bill of £669,000 in just one month under proposals to impose financial levies on trusts which breach Government waiting time targets in Northern Ireland’s A&Es.

The Health & Social Care Board, which commissions services for the NHS, has confirmed it has developed proposals on new financial measures aimed at improving patient access in A&Es.

Trusts may have to pay up to £500 for each 12-hour breach if the proposals are approved by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

Government figures released yesterday have revealed the Northern Health & Social Care Trust performed worst — 600 patients waited more than 12 hours in |accident and emergency departments last month.

Under the Board proposals, Northern Trust bosses would now have to pay up £300,000 at a time when they are already struggling to make ends meet. According to the Government figures, no patients seen at A&Es in the Southern Trust waited longer than 12 hours.

However, fewer patients attended A&Es in the Southern Trust than the Northern Trust.

A spokeswoman from the Northern Trust apologised to all patients who had to wait for a bed in Antrim Area Hospital.

“The trust has developed a robust improvement plan and is committed to securing improvements in emergency care,” she said.

Analysis

Waiting times in the health service are soaring. While the latest statistics reveal more patients are waiting longer in our A&Es, the sad fact is it is getting harder to access any kind of treatment or care.

Of course, health officials warned this would be the result of shrinking budgets — so the latest A&E waiting times should come as little surprise. Except for the fact that the Southern Trust seems to be coping.

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