Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland A&Es worst performers in UK and it's not likely to improve soon, health officials warn

Health officials have warned accident and emergency waiting times in Northern Ireland are likely to get worse.

It comes after a major BBC investigation found waiting times in Northern Ireland's emergency departments were the worst in the entire UK.

Four out of five of health trusts here were among the UK's worst performers.

The research which considered data stretching back five years showed that more than 50,000 people attended a Northern Ireland emergency department in the past year. That was an increase of 90,000 on the previous year and an increase of 13% on 2012/13. That was the highest percentage increase compared to England, Scotland and Wales.

Scotland was closest to hitting the target of 95% of patients seen within four hours. However, Northern Ireland was the worst with an average 74% of patients treated in the target time. That was a drop compared to the 77% rate in 2012/13.

The Northern Trust was the lowest, with 63% seen within the target time while the South Eastern Trust was the highest at just over 78.7%.

The Belfast (71%), Northern, Western (75%) and the Southern (78%) health trusts were all in the top 10 worst performers for the UK.

The Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board said that while work was ongoing in addressing the issue, as winter closed in the situation was likely to get worse before it got better. It said reform was needed of the entire health service.

"All trusts have developed plans to improve resilience over the winter period and the Department of Health has recently made available an additional £7m to support the implementation of these plans," it said.

"However, the long-term answer to the pressures we are facing in emergency departments, and throughout primary, secondary and community care, will only come through continuing to reform our services."

The Department of Health highlighted that there was a bigger percentage increase in attendances at Northern Ireland emergency departments than anywhere else in the UK.

It also said that the service was different in each region. As an example, in England walk-in centres are included in the statistics which Northern Ireland doesn't have. In the walk-in centres all patients are seen within a four-hour period which would help improve the overall figures for the NHS in England.

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