A&E delays ‘unacceptabLe’

Thousands of people in Derry are having to endure lengthy waiting times for treatment at Altnagelvin Hospital’s casualty department.

New figures reveal that in each of the first six months of this year, Altnagelvin failed to meet government targets to treat, admit or discharge patients within a strict four hour time frame.

SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan says the new figures “will cause concern to patients and the wider public alike.”

The latest figures, released by the Department of Health and covering April, May and June of this year, reveal that 2,881 patients - that’s around 30 patients every day - had to wait more than four hours to be seen.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that, in the first three months of 2011, 2,630 patients had to wait more than four hours in the Derry hospital’s A&E department.

Mr Durkan says waiting times have to be “brought back under control and quickly.”

“These figures confirm the anecdotal evidence that I have been hearing already that people have to wait longer for their treatment.

“We are now reaching a point where it’s just not acceptable and has to be brought back under control and quickly.

“At the next meeting of the Stormont Health Committee I will be looking for more detail on this and trying to identify the precise causes for the poor figures.”

The government’s set target states 95% of patients attending any A&E department are either treated and discharged home, or admitted, within four hours of their arrival in the department, and that no patient should wait longer than 12 hours in A&E. Since the start of the year, twelve people had to wait more than 12 hours in Altnagelvin’s A&E.

Only around 80% of a total of 26,767 patients attending Altnagelvin’s A&E this year were seen within the target time frame.

A spokesman for the Western Health and Social Care Trust last night said Altnagelvin Hospital “continues to experience challenges related to the volume of work coming through the Accident and Emergency Department.”

He said staff in the Western Trust’s Emergency Departments, which includes Altnagelvin, are working hard to assess and treat patients as quickly as possible.

“The latest published waiting time statistics indicate at June 2011 that 84.9% of patients are waiting under four hours in Emergency Care Departments across the Western Trust.

“While this figure is lower than the 95% Ministerial target, the performance across the Western Trust is higher than the regional average.”