MLA queries ‘unrealistic’ A&E waiting time targets

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More than 1200 people have to endure lengthy waiting times at Altnagelvin’s Casualty department every month, new figures reveal.

The SDLP’s Mark H Durkan says the latest Department of Health figures question the effectiveness of target times and further questions how “Altnagelvin can manage their system better”.

New Department of Health (DOH) figures covering April, May and June of this year, show that almost 4000 patients had to wait longer than the government set target time of four hours at Altnagelvin.

The DOH targets dictate that 95% of all patients will be treated, admitted or discharged patients within a strict four hour time frame - and that no patient will wait longer than 12 hours in casualty departments.

At Altnagelvin only around 72% of 13,890 patients were seen within the strict four hour time frame - and four patients had to endure a wait longer than 12 hours.

Mr Durkan says the “latest figures give cause for concern.”

He says uncertainty over the future of services at the Causeway Hospital exacerbates those concerns further despite the best efforts of “hardworking and caring” A&E staff.

“Altnagelvin’s apparent inability to meet departmental targets calls into question not only how realistic the targets are but also how Altnagelvin can manage their system better.

“It is difficult to imagine a more difficult and stressful working environment than an accident and emergency ward and it is important to emphasise that this is not the fault of the hardworking, caring staff.

“But there does appear to be a systematic failure that must be addressed- particularly given the uncertainty around the future of the casualty service at Causeway, any dilution of which will inevitably see more patients attending Altnagelvin.”

The Derry MLA says there is also an onus on the public to help ease the strain on A&E services.

“Furthermore, improved public awareness is vital to reduce the number of people who attend A&E unnecessarily and as a consequence tie up staff and increase waiting times for those in genuine need,” he says.

Target times were also missed at Altnagelvin in the first quarter of 2012 and in every month of last year.

Daisy Hill Hospital was the only A&E department in the north to meet the target at any time in the second quarter of this year - treating, admitting or discharging 95.5% of A&E patients in June.

Mr Durkan also warned that alcohol abuse was putting further pressure on stretched resources.