Major rise in numbers presenting at Altnagelvin A&E

A&E departments are becoming increasingly busy year on year. (Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire)
A&E departments are becoming increasingly busy year on year. (Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire)

The number of people presenting at Altnagelvin Hospital’s Accident & Emergency Department has risen rapidly over the past five years, a new report has confirmed.

However, hardworking staff at Derry’s busy A&E Department have helped to ensure that many patients are waiting less time than the Northern Ireland average to be seen and treated.

The number of people arriving at the Emergency Department in Derry has jumped from 57,837 back in 2014 to almost 72,000 for the year to the start of April 2019.

The statistics are revealed in a stark new report on Emergency Care in Northern Ireland released by the Department of Health along with an apology.

The Department of Health said the figures for this year “starkly illustrate the pressures on our Emergency Departments and on the wider health and social care system.

“We must again apologise to the significant and growing numbers of patients who have been waiting too long in our EDs,” a spokesperson said.

“Clearly, the current model of care – the way we organise urgent and emergency services together with the flow of patients through our hospitals from admission to discharge – needs to change.”

Overall in Northern Ireland, the number of attendances at Emergency Department rose by over 111,000 people from five years ago to over 850,000 last year. The number of people waiting over 12 hours or longer in Northern Ireland has also leapt from 3,170 in 2014/15 to 25,326 in 2018/19.

Within the Western Trust meanwhile, 73.8 per cent of patients were waiting less than four hours, with 2.2 per cent waiting 12 hours or more - making it the best performing region across the North. The time it took from a patient being triaged to starting treatment was also lowest in the Western Trust area, and at Altnagelvin Hospital the average time was just 32 minutes last year, compared to 56 minutes five years ago.

Around one in every 30 patients left Altnagelvin Hospital’s A&E before their treatment was completed, below the NI average and well below the level of patients leaving five years ago.

The average time spent in Derry’s A.&E. Department by those who were not then admitted to hospital, stood at two hours and 22 minutes, which has remained more or less the same over the past five years despite the steady rise in patients.

Health officials have said pressures traditionally experienced at winter time are now present throughout the year, and next week 160 clinicians, patients’ representatives and others will gather at a health service summit as part of an ongoing review of urgent and emergency care here. “The summit will help shape a public consultation later this year on a new model for Northern Ireland,” the Department spokesperson said.