A&E waiting times continue to rise

Published Tuesday, 05 March 2013
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Hospital waiting times in Northern Ireland are still failing to meet targets, a new report shows.

A&E waiting times continue to rise
Waiting times at accident and emergency departments in NI are continuing to rise (© UTV)

The number of people waiting more than 12 hours to be seen at accident and emergency departments increased by nearly 3,000, an Audit Office report reveals.

Delays have soared by almost 40% and are longest A&Es in Belfast, Northern and South Eastern Trusts, the figures show.

There are also long queues at outpatients, with almost 6,000 waiting five months or more for treatment, while it has been revealed 775 inpatients waited more than nine months.

It was noted that over the last two years the Health and Social Care sector did not reach the 95% target for patients waiting four hours or less for accident and emergency treatment.

The report looks at how the health and social care sector performed between March 2011 and 2012.

It also expressed concerns over the £2.8m bill footed by taxpayers because of false claims for eye and dental treatments.

Thousands of people in the region are cheating the system, and although more than 2,000 fixed penalties were issued during the year, only £30,000 was recouped from patients who failed to pay up.

The report said the Health and Social Care Sector's Counter Fraud and Probity Service (CFPS) should be given more resources.

"Northern Ireland Audit Office considers that CFPS's work should be supported by IT resources that facilitate the operational and strategic management of its activity and performance as well as the management of individual fraud investigations.

"This should enable a shift from reactive to more proactive/targeted activity, with a likely increase in both the efficiency and effectiveness of CFPS's work," the report stated.

During the year, random and targeted checks were carried out to identify the false claimants, while a further 104 referrals were made to the CFPS.

Of those, 39 came from the UK Border Agency, who found 39 people they suspected of being in NI illegally and accessing free health care. Nine cases were passed to the PSNI and two people were prosecuted.

In his fourth audit office report the Northern Ireland Comptroller and Auditor General Kieran Donnelly focused on the Health and Social Care sector which spends more than £4.4 billion a year.

Mr Donnelly said: "While 2011-12 was a year when the health and social care sector recorded good financial results it was also a period when a range of important measures of health care performance, including accident and emergency waiting times declined.

"The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has noted some improvements in the early part of the current year. I will examine if this trend has been sustained in 2012-13."

© UTV News
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11 Comments
On the Fence in Belfast wrote (597 days ago):
I feel terribly sorry for the nursing staff who have to take the face to face frustration of the patients. I do not feel sorry for the big wigs however who see it fit to close wards and push patient numbers through the roof. People need to be a little wiser when visiting the hospital themselves. I suffered a fracture to my hand six months ago and would have had to wait 7 hours to be X-Rayed in Ulster Hospital due to the queue of people waiting on minor issues. I didnt require emergency treatment so left it til the next morning, where it took about twenty minutes in Newtownards community hospital to get X-Rayed and I was away again.
Bangor in Bangor wrote (597 days ago):
What do you expect when mr poots is closing a and e departments and cutting beds willy nilly, its not health service staffs fault, its the fault of an incompetent man who hasnt got a clue what hes doing. Time to leave mr poots, let someone with a brain take over.
S.B. in Belfast wrote (597 days ago):
I took my father to the Mater Hospital A & E a fortnight ago. He went in at 7.00 p.m. and didn't leave until 3.00 am the next morning, an 8 hour wait. He is a man in his 70's and gets tired very easily but at NO time did anyone from the hospital come to inform him what was going on; I had to do all the chasing up. From giving his details at the front desk it was an hour and a half before the triage nurse even seen him and then we were told it would be another 5 or 6 hours before a doctor would see him. My father was becoming more distressed and in pain as time went on and I had to keep pushing the hospital to deal with him; the experience was an absolute nightmare. There is no communicaton whatsoever with patients and their families in A & E and that is what causes the most anger and distress. In my opinion the A & E at the Mater is not fit for purpose. It is cramped, humid and far too small for the number of patients going in. There were people standing all over the place and elderly people in wheelchairs pushed into corners and a complete lack of dignity, respect and privacy for all concerned. By contrast I took my dog to a vet practice outside Belfast this week. He required admittance and treatment for 2 nights and our family, and dog, were promptly dealt with and treated in a very kind, courteous way. It is not an exaggeration to say that our pet and family had a far better, more informative, respectful experience with the vet's than we did from the NHS A & E. That is an indictment on our Health Service!
JO in Co. Antrim wrote (597 days ago):
To Nurse in Belfast - my 12 year old daughter had an 8 hour wait sitting in a chair after triage took us through to majors. She was not seen by any Doctor or Nurse and was not monitored during this time. She was finally taken direct to theatre after 12 hours in A&E. It is a total disgrace and the Government need to do more urgently!!!
Mike in Belfast wrote (597 days ago):
Oh no....flags are much more important for politicians and the people of NI. Just compare the number of outraged people commenting on this story to the flags stories and you'll see what a sad little misguided country we live in.
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