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‘Staff are at breaking point’ says RCEM, as less than 40% of patients seen within four-hour target in A&Es in Northern Ireland

13 February 2024

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has described the pressure facing A&E staff in Northern Ireland as “unsurmountable” as the latest performance data shows December was worst month on record for waiting time target.

Emergency Department performance figures for October to December 2023 (Q3) published today (13 February 2024) by the Department of Health Northern Ireland show:

  • The average number of attendances at A&E per month between October and December 2023 was 48,238.
  • October to December 2023 was the worst quarter on record for four-hour and the second worst for 12-hour Emergency Department performance in Northern Ireland.
  • On average, more than half of patients waited for four hours or more (59.8%) and over one in six patients waited for 12 hours or more (17.7%).
  • In December, the percentage of patients who waited less four-hours in an Emergency Department dropped below 40% for the first time ever. The target is that everyone should be treated, admitted or discharged within four hours.
  • The number of patients who waited 12 hours or longer has increased by 16 times compared to same time frame in 2016.

Commenting on the data, Vice Chair of RCEM Northern Ireland, Dr Michael Perry said:

“The unsurmountable pressure on Emergency Departments is proving detrimental to patients and staff, with no respite in sight.

“Staff and patients continue to deal with the knock-on effects of overcrowding and long waits in corridors or ambulance queues. This is frustrating, uncomfortable and undignified. Patients and staff deserve better.

“In the face of such adversity staff are managing to keep Emergency Departments running – but this is not sustainable, and staff are at breaking point.

“We reiterate our call for the new health minister and the Department of Health to #ResuscitateEmergencyCareto adopt our five priorities, with the most urgent focus to increase and maximise functional bed capacity and implement measures to retain our hardworking staff before the UEC implodes.”

Last week, RCEM called for the newly reconvened Northern Ireland Executive to put Resuscitating Emergency Care in the country at the top of its ‘to-do’ list.

The full data and visualisations are available on the statistics and data pages of RCEM’s website.


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