Emergency Care Waiting Time Statistics (January – March 2022)

Date published: 13 May 2022

The Department of Health (DoH) today published statistics on the time spent in emergency care departments (ED) throughout Northern Ireland during the months of January, February and March 2022.

The statistical bulletin presents information on all new and unplanned review attendances during January, February and March 2022. It details information on the time spent in EDs during each of these months including; the monthly performance against the DoH emergency care waiting times target for EDs and the time waited for key milestones during a patient’s journey through ED, whilst they are being cared for in an ED, including the time to triage and time to start of treatment.

Please note that this statistical release includes information on two new urgent care services (i) PhoneFirst and (ii) Urgent Care Centres, which were introduced in late 2020, to assess patients’ needs before arrival at an ED, and ensure they receive the right care, at the right time, and in the right place, outside ED if appropriate. These new services may in part help explain the reduction in the number of patients attending EDs.

This information release is published on the website.  

Key Points

Attendances at Emergency Care Departments:

Urgent and Emergency Care Attendances:

  • In March 2022, 15,058 calls / attendances were received by PhoneFirst and Urgent Care Centre services from patients who may previously have attended an ED. A total of 2,482 (16.5%) resulted in an attendance at an ED.
  • During March 2022, 65,739 patients in total attended an ED, and 12,576 attended PhoneFirst / Urgent Care Centre services without further referral to an ED; a total of 78,315 patients attending all urgent and emergency care services.

Emergency Care Attendances:

  • During March 2022, there were 65,739 attendances at EDs in Northern Ireland, 13,028 (24.7%) more than in March 2021 (52,711).
  • Of the 65,739 ED attendances during March 2022, 57,753 (87.9%) had attended a Type 1 ED, 2,875 (4.4%) attended a Type 2 ED and 5,111 (7.8%) attended a Type 3 ED.
  • Between March 2021 and March 2022, attendances increased at Type 1 EDs (11,365, 24.5%), Type 2 EDs (443, 18.2%) and Type 3 EDs (1,220, 31.4%).
  • There were 178,514 attendances at EDs during the quarter ending 31 March 2022, 32.9% (44,201) more than during the same quarter in 2021 (134,313).

Left before Treatment Complete:

  • During March 2022, 6.1% of all ED attendances left before their treatment was complete, compared with 3.4% in March 2021.

Unplanned Re-Attendances within 7 Days:

  • During March 2022, 3.4% of the 65,739 ED attendances were unplanned review attendances who had returned to the same ED within 7 days of their original attendance for the same condition.

Referrals by GP:

  • March 2022, one in seven (15.6%) attendances at EDs had been referred by a GP, compared with 17.7% in March 2021

Time Spent in Emergency Care Departments:

Performance against Targets

  • Almost half (47.3%) of attendances at Type 1 EDs in March 2022 spent less than 4 hours in ED, compared with 80.5% at Type 2 EDs and 99.3% at Type 3 EDs.
  • Over eight in ten (80.5%) patients attending a Type 2 ED in March 2022 were treated and discharged, or admitted within 4 hours of their arrival, compared with 78.8% in March 2021.
  • Almost all (99.3%) patients attending a Type 3 ED were treated and discharged, or admitted within 4 hours of their arrival, compared with 99.8% in March 2021.
  • Between March 2021 and March 2022, the number waiting over 12 hours increased from 3,487 to 8,586, accounting for 13.1% of attendances in March 2022.
  • Almost two thirds (65.9%) of patients attending EDs commenced their treatment within 2 hours of being triaged, compared with 80.6% in March 2021.
  • During the quarter ending 31 March 2022, over half (52.6%) of patients spent less than 4 hours at an ED, compared to 60.0% during the same quarter in 2021.

Time to Triage:

  • The median waiting time from arrival at an ED to triage (initial assessment) by a medical professional was 14 minutes during March 2022, with 95 percent of patients having their care needs assessed for the first time by a medical professional within 1 hour 12 minutes of arrival.

Time to Start of Treatment:

  • During March 2022, the median waiting time from triage to the start of treatment by a medical professional was 1 hour 12 minutes, with 95 percent of patients receiving treatment within 5 hours 55 minutes of being triaged.

Total Time in Emergency Care Department:

  • The median time patients discharged home (not admitted) spent in a Type 1 ED was 3 hours 35 minutes in March 2022, 35 minutes more than the time taken during the same month last year (3 hours).
  • The median time patients who were admitted to hospital spent in a Type 1 ED was 13 hours 8 minutes in March 2022, 5 hours 28 minutes more than the same month last year (7 hours 40 minutes).
  • During March 2021, the Altnagelvin Area reported the longest median time spent in ED from arrival to admission (20 hours 56 minutes), whilst the RBHSC reported the shortest time (5 hours 14 minutes).

Notes to editors: 

  1. This statistical bulletin reports the total time spent in an ED from arrival until admission, transfer or discharge for all new and unplanned review attendances at emergency care departments across Northern Ireland. The figures do not include planned review attendances.
  2. Time is measured from when a patient arrives at the ED (time of arrival is recorded at registration or triage whichever is earlier (clock starts)) until the patient departs the ED (time of departure is defined as when the patient's clinical care episode is completed within the ED (clock stops)).
  3. The current draft Ministerial targets for emergency care waiting times in 2021/22 state that:

‘From April 2021, 95% of patients attending any Type 1, 2 or 3 Emergency Care Department are either treated and discharged home, or admitted, within four hours of their arrival in the department; and no patient attending any Emergency Care Department should wait longer than 12 hours.’

‘By March 2022, at least 80% of patients to have commenced treatment, following triage, within 2 hours.’

  1. Information which presents a summary of the emergency care clinical quality indicators for Northern Ireland has also been included in this release. This information is not National Statistics but has been included to provide a more comprehensive and balanced view of the care delivered by EDs and reflects the experience of patients and the timeliness of the care they receive.
  2. Readers are advised to be cautious when making direct comparisons between Northern Ireland and other UK Jurisdictions as waiting times may not be measured in a comparable manner.  It should also be noted that the way in which emergency care services are delivered differs between UK jurisdictions. This means that the number and types of patients included in the figures may differ between countries. In particular, the 12-hour waiting time information published by England and Northern Ireland is not equivalent and should not be compared. Further information on comparability between Northern Ireland and other UK Jurisdictions are included in the ‘Emergency Care Waiting Time Statistics – Additional Guidance’ booklet
  1. The DoH have liaised with colleagues in England, Scotland and Wales to clarify differences between the emergency care waiting times reported for each administration and have produced a guidance document to provide readers with a clear understanding of these differences Emergency Care UK Comparative Waiting Times PDF (25KB)
  2. There are three separate categories of emergency care facility included in this publication:

Type 1 Department     A consultant-led service with designated accommodation for the reception of emergency care patients, providing both emergency medicine and emergency surgical services 24 hours a day.

Type 2 Department     A consultant-led service with designated accommodation for the reception of emergency care patients, but which does not provide both emergency medicine and emergency surgical services and/or has time-limited opening hours.

Type 3 Department     A minor injury unit with designated accommodation for the reception of patients with a minor injury and/or illness. It may be a doctor or nurse-led. A defining characteristic of this service is that it treats at least minor injuries and/or illnesses and can be routinely accessed without an appointment.

  1. Figures incorporate all returns and amendments received from HSC Trusts up to Thursday 5 May 2022.
  2. Further information on Emergency Care Statistics is available from:
    Hospital Information Branch
    Department of Health
    Annexe 2, Castle Buildings
    BT4 3SQ
    Email: statistics@health-ni.gov.uk
    Internet: DoH Statistics and Research
  3. For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office by email at pressoffice@health-ni.gov.uk
  4. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt
  5. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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