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A&E units failing to meet four-hour target for treating patients

By Anna Maguire

None of Northern Ireland’s emergency departments are meeting a four-hour target for treating patients, a report has revealed.

The Health and Social Care Board (HSC) report said A&E departments could do better.

The details revealed differences in the performance levels at accident and emergency (A&E) departments.

Performance was best at the Southern and Western Health Trusts, according to the report.

Poor rates were recorded at the Belfast, South Eastern and particularly the Northern Trust.

All trusts have improved at reducing the number of 12-hour breaches, including a 64% reduction in the Belfast Trust and 50% in the Northern Trust.

Author Mary Hinds, the Nursing and Allied Health professionals director, admitted trusts were struggling.

“I think that trusts sometimes need a target that they can work towards so we have given them some incremental steps — it doesn't replace and doesn't dilute the minister's target but some incremental steps — and the incremental step we have given them is to improve their six-hour performance as well as their four-hour performance,” she told the BBC.

The report’s findings came to light at a meeting of Stormont’s health committee yesterday, where senior health officials gave evidence on A&E performance levels.

At the meeting, it emerged Health Minister Edwin Poots has relaxed measures he introduced in April.

These were launched in response to widespread shock following the death of a 77-year-old man on a hospital trolley while waiting in the emergency department at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Mr Poots said progress in recent months had prompted his move.

In a statement he said: “Over the past months the Belfast Trust has made progress in addressing the specific areas of concern and that is why I am confirming today that the arrangements can be relaxed.”

However, close monitoring of the trust’s performance will continue, he said.


Health Minister Edwin Poots introduced extra scrutiny of the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust’s A&E in April after an outcry in the wake of a number of deaths. A 77-year-old man had died while waiting in the Royal Victoria Hospital’s A&E unit on a hospital trolley. Relatives of a cancer patient also spoke out after she died before being admitted to a Royal Victoria ward in January. In the same month, the trust faced criticism over its handling of the pseudomonas outbreak, which claimed the lives of three babies at a Royal Jubilee Maternity unit.

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