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 2023.
The statistical bulletin presents information on all new and unplanned review attendances during January, February and March 2023. 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 Emergency Care Waiting Times Website.
Attendances at Emergency Care Departments:
Urgent and Emergency Care Attendances:
- In March 2023, 15,020 calls / attendances were received by PhoneFirst and Urgent Care Centre services, from patients who may previously have attended an ED. A total of 2,266 (15.1%) resulted in an attendance at an ED, whilst 12,754 patients did not go on to attend an ED.
- During March 2023, 65,975 patients in total attended an ED, and 12,754 attended PhoneFirst / Urgent Care Centre services without further referral to an ED; a total of 78,729 patients attending all urgent and emergency care services.
Emergency Care Attendances:
- During March 2023, there were 65,975 attendances at EDs in Northern Ireland, 2,836 (4.5%) more than in March 2022 (63,139).
- Of the 65,975 ED attendances during March 2023, 57,965 (87.9%) had attended a Type 1 ED, 2,838 (4.3%) attended a Type 2 ED and 5,172 (7.8%) attended a Type 3 ED.
- Between March 2022 and March 2023, attendances increased at Type 1 EDs (2,826, 5.1%) and Type 3 EDs (61, 1.2%), and decreased at Type 2 EDs (51, 1.8%).
- There were 181,332 attendances at EDs during the quarter ending 31 March 2023, 5.9% (10,167) more than during the same quarter in 2022 (171,165).
Left before Treatment Complete:
- During March 2023, 7.2% of all ED attendances left before their treatment was complete, compared with 6.5% in March 2022.
Unplanned Re-Attendances within 7 Days:
- During March 2023, 3.6% of the 65,975 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:
- During March 2023, almost one in five (19.5%) attendances at EDs had been referred by a GP, compared with 16.6% in March 2022.
Time Spent in Emergency Care Departments:
Performance against Targets
- Over two fifths (40.5%) of attendances at Type 1 EDs in March 2023 spent less than 4 hours in ED, compared with 78.4% at Type 2 EDs and 99.2% at Type 3 EDs.
- During the quarter ending 31 March 2023, almost half (48.6%) of patients spent less than 4 hours at an ED, compared to 51.6% during the same quarter in 2022.
- Over three quarters (78.4%) of patients attending a Type 2 ED in March 2023 were treated and discharged, or admitted within 4 hours of their arrival, compared with 80.4% in March 2022.
- Almost all (99.2%) of patients attending a Type 3 ED were treated and discharged, or admitted within 4 hours of their arrival, compared with 99.3% in March 2022.
- Between March 2022 and March 2023, the number waiting over 12 hours increased from 8,195 to 10,243, accounting for 15.5% of attendances in March 2023.
Time to Triage:
- During March 2023, the median waiting time from arrival at an ED to triage (initial assessment) by a medical professional was 12 minutes, with 95 percent of patients having their care needs assessed for the first time by a medical professional within 1 hour 6 minutes of arrival.
Time to Start of Treatment:
- During March 2023, the median waiting time from triage to the start of treatment by a medical professional was 1 hour 22 minutes, with 95 percent of patients receiving treatment within 7 hours 15 minutes of being triaged.
- Over three fifths (61.1%) of patients attending EDs in March 2023 commenced their treatment within 2 hours of being triaged, compared with 65.6% in March 2022.
Total Time in Emergency Care Department:
- The median time patients discharged home (not admitted) spent in a Type 1 ED was 4 hours 9 minutes in March 2023, 27 minutes more than the time taken during the same month last year (3 hours 42 minutes).
- The median time patients who were admitted to hospital spent in a Type 1 ED was 14 hours 16 minutes in March 2023, 1 hours 21 minutes more than the same month last year (12 hours 55 minutes).
- During March 2023, Craigavon Area reported the longest median time spent in ED from arrival to admission (19 hours 13 minutes), whilst the RBHSC reported the shortest time (5 hours 54 minutes).
Notes to editors:
- 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 NI. The figures do not include planned review attendances.
- 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)).
- The current draft Ministerial targets for emergency care waiting times in 2022/23 state that:
‘From April 2022, 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 2023, at least 80% of patients to have commenced treatment, following triage, within 2 hours.’
- 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.
- 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. (link below)
Emergency Care Waiting Time Statistics – Additional Guidance
- 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 (link below).
- 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.
- Figures incorporate all returns and amendments received from HSC Trusts up to Monday 24 April 2023.
- Further information on Emergency Care Statistics is available from:
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