Belfast Telegraph

Trusts misleading public over hospital waiting times, claims NHS campaigner

By Jonathan Bell

The latest Government statistics on hospital waiting times are designed to bluff the reader into thinking performance is not getting any worse, a health campaigner has claimed.

Figures released by the Department of Health show that between April and June this year almost 68,000 people attended a Northern Ireland accident and emergency department. Just over 50,000 of those admissions was to a type 1 department - a 24-hour A&E that is consultant-led and has full resuscitation facilities.

Just over 77% of those attending the type 1 departments were treated and discharged, or admitted within four hours of their arrival. That was seven per cent more than the same period in the previous year. The official target is 95%.

Almost 300 people faced a wait of over 12 hours for treatment. During June 2017, patients attending the Causeway Hospital faced an average five-hour, 40-minute wait. The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children reported a median time of two hours and 48 minutes.

NHS campaigner Hugh McCloy said: "What the stats do tell us, though, is that in most cases 60% to 80% of those who turn up at acute A&Es need urgent care. The age old excuse of people misusing A&Es is slowly being debunked by their own figures."

Mr McCloy said many non-emergency cases go to A&E when there is no minor injuries unit close to them: "A&Es fill up because they cannot admit patients into wards because the wards are full and then A&E becomes a holding ward and there is no capacity for more patients. It has a knock-on effect as the Ambulance Service will start diverting to other hospitals only for the same thing to happen."

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