'Worrying' number of people still waiting more than 12 hours at A&E
Almost 70 people spent over 12 hours waiting in accident and emergency departments across Northern Ireland last month, it has been revealed.
The latest figures published by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS), show that the hospital waiting times continue to spiral.
The overall performance of A&E departments has also worsened since the last quarter with 75% of patients treated or admitted within four hours - breaching the government's 95% target.
Patients waiting longer than 12 hours also increased between July and September from 44 to 67, with Altnagelvin Area Hospital in Londonderry reporting the largest decrease in performance, from 0 to 18.
However, there was some good news for Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast after it reported the most notable improvement in performance with the number of patients waiting 12 hours reducing from 135 to just nine compared to last year.
Overall, the number of patients waiting longer than 12 hours dropped from 256 to 67 from last year.
Some 1,500 more people attended A&E departments across Northern Ireland between July and September this year.
Minor injuries units proved to be performing at a much better rate with almost 100% of patients being discharged or admitted within four hours.
SDLP's health spokesman Fearghal McKinney said that he is "not surprised by worrying statistics" which he claims shows "systemic failure to treat patients" within target times.
He said: "What continues to shock us, though, is that the minister, and the department, have continually failed to implement a robust and coherent strategy to deal with increasing demand on the system.
"This is reflected in Belfast, Antrim, Enniskillen, Coleraine and Derry. In fact, right across the north patients' lives are continuously being put at risk with hospitals continuously breaching targets put in place to ensure speedier diagnoses' and treatment in order to maximise patients' chances of survival.
"Already this year we have seen a massive crisis emerge in elective care. This was caused by the minister, and the department, effectively redirecting funds away from elective care into emergency departments - creating a crisis while trying to circumvent another."
Earlier this month, the health department launched live waiting times in emergency departments which are made available online to help curb major delays.
Around £4m is being allocated from within the Health Department's annual budget to tackle the waiting time issue over the winter months.