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No Health Minister... but Northern Ireland A&E waiting times better

By Allan Preston

Emergency care waiting times in Northern Ireland have improved this year - despite Northern Ireland having no Health Minister.

Figures released yesterday by the Department of Health showed a slight improvement in attendance figures for March compared to a year ago.

In March 2017, 68,418 patients attended A&E departments - a 2.7% increase from the previous year.

UUP MLA Roy Beggs called the figures "an overdue step in the right direction". But he also claimed it exposed how "negligible and ineffective" the policies of previous Health Minister Michelle O'Neill had been.

Over two-thirds (70.2%) of the most severe Type 1 emergencies were treated and discharged within four hours of arrival - 1.6% higher than March last year.

The average waiting time for Type 1 patients was two hours, 27 minutes for those discharged home. For those admitted to hospital, the time was five hours, 22 minutes in March 2017 - 12 minutes faster than last year.

No patient should wait longer than 12 hours, and the number waiting longer than that improved from 667 to 585.

"The irony is that this small improvement was achieved in a month there was no Health Minister in place," said Mr Beggs.

"Michelle O'Neill was never a good Health Minister. Waiting times spiralled under her watch and she was more concerned with gimmicks and soundbites than actually delivering real improvements for patients."

Mr Beggs said that waiting times were still "wholly unacceptable", with morale of health workers at "rock bottom".

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