Emergency Care Waiting Time Statistics (July - September 2019)

Date published: 24 October 2019

The Department of Health (DoH) today published statistics on the time spent in emergency care departments (ED) throughout Northern Ireland during the months of July, August and September 2019.

Emergency care waiting time statistics

The statistical bulletin presents information on all new and unplanned review attendances during July, August and September 2019. It details information on the time spent in EDs during each of these months including; the monthly performance against 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.

This information release is published on the Departmental website.

Key Points 

Attendances at Emergency Care Departments:


  • During September 2019, there were 71,280 attendances at EDs in Northern Ireland, 5,039 (7.6%) more than in September 2018 (66,241).
  • Of the 71,280 ED attendances during September 2019, 57,554 (80.7%) had attended a Type 1 ED, 5,859 (8.2%) attended a Type 2 ED and 7,867 (11.0%) attended a Type 3 ED.
  • Between September 2018 and September 2019, attendances increased at Type 1 EDs (3,386, 6.3%), Type 2 EDs (683, 13.2%) and Type 3 EDs (970, 14.1%).
  • There were 214,685 attendances at EDs during the quarter ending 30th September 2019, 4.6% (9,443) more than during the same quarter in 2018 (205,242).

Left before Treatment Complete:

  • During September 2019, 5.1% of ED attendances left before their treatment had been completed.

Unplanned Re-Attendances within 7 Days:

  • During September 2019, 3.7% of the 71,280 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:

  • Almost one in six (16.3%) attendances at EDs in September 2019 had been referred by a GP, similar to September 2018 (16.3%).

Time Spent in Emergency Care Departments:

Performance against Targets

  • Almost six in ten (59.6%) attendances at Type 1 EDs in September 2019 were treated and discharged, or admitted within 4 hours of their arrival, 6.4 percentage points lower than September 2018 (66.0%).
  • Almost eight in ten (78.7%) patients attending a Type 2 ED in September 2019 were treated and discharged, or admitted within 4 hours of their arrival, 7.2 percentage points lower than September 2018 (85.9%).
  • Almost all (99.4%) patients attending a Type 3 ED were treated and discharged, or admitted within 4 hours of their arrival, 0.5 percentage points lower than September 2018 (99.9%).
  • Between September 2018 and September 2019, the number waiting longer than 12 hours increased from 1,714 to 3,482, accounting for 4.9% of all attendances in September 2019.
  • Over three quarters (75.7%) of patients attending ED commenced their treatment within 2 hours of being triaged, 5.8 percentage points lower than September 2018 (81.5%).
  • During the quarter ending 30th September 2019, almost two thirds (66.9%) of patients were treated and discharged or admitted within 4 hours, 4.4 percentage points less than the same quarter in 2018 (71.3%).

Time to Triage:

  • The median waiting time from arrival at an ED to triage (initial assessment) by a medical professional was 10 minutes during September 2019, with 95 percent of patients having their care needs assessed for the first time by a medical professional within 41 minutes of arrival.

Time to Start of Treatment:

  • During September 2019, the median waiting time from triage to the start of treatment by a medical professional was 51 minutes, with 95 percent of patients receiving treatment within 4 hours 35 minutes of being triaged.

Total Time in Emergency Care Department:

  • The median time spent in a Type 1 ED by patients who were discharged home (not admitted) was 2 hours 54 minutes in September 2019, 19 minutes more than the same month last year (2 hours 35 minutes).
  • The median time spent in a Type 1 ED for patients admitted to hospital was 7 hours 25 minutes in September 2019, 1 hour 6 minutes more than the same month last year (6 hours 19 minutes).
  • During September 2019, the Craigavon Area reported the longest median time spent in an ED from arrival to admission to hospital in a Type 1 ED (9 hours 33 minutes), whilst the RBHSC reported the shortest median time of 3 hours 45 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 NI. 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 2019/20 state that:

    ‘From April 2019, 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 2020, at least 80% of patients to have commenced treatment, following triage, within 2 hours.’
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Figures incorporate all returns and amendments received from HSC Trusts up to Wednesday 16 October 2019. 

    Further information on Emergency Care Statistics is available from:
    Hospital Information Branch
    Department of Health
    Annexe 2, Castle Buildings
    BT4 3SQ


  9. For media enquiries please contact the Department of Health Press Office on 028 9052 0575 or email: pressoffice@health-ni.gov.uk . For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.
  10. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt

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