Northern Ireland Emergency Wait Times Soar

By Gary Adair

The severity of the shortage of resources currently plaguing the health service in Northern Ireland has become increasingly apparent following the revelation that the number of patients waiting longer than 12 hours in A&E has increased by 700% in the last five years.

The figures, released by the Department of Health as part of their Annual Report, confirm that the number of patients experiencing such a wait increased from 3,170 in 2014 to 25,326 in 2019.

The Ulster Hospital experienced the biggest five year increase, with the number of long wait patients jumping from 689 to 6,486. Craigavon Area Hospital took top spot for the biggest year on year increase, with the number of patients waiting rising from 2,570 to 4,604.

The number of people attending accident and emergency departments across Northern Ireland experienced a 15% increase over the five year reporting period, rising from 738,665 in 2014/15 to 850,522 in 2018/19. While a 15% increase in people attending A&E is by no means a small one, that it has resulted in such a sharp rise in wait times for so many patients speaks volumes to the strain on NHS resources.  

Wait times can have a profound impact on the effectiveness of the care received, as well. Ulster Unionist health spokesman Roy Beggs stated that “it’s medically proven that patients who are seen quickly have better outcomes than those who have to wait”. He also expressed concern that those patients waiting in excess of 12 hours will be experiencing additional damage alongside their existing ailments. 

Beggs went on to say that “never before in the history of the NHS have things been so precarious”.

With resources stretched and patients suffering, healthcare professionals are under increasing pressure to provide quality care with less and less support.

A delay in treatment can have significant consequences depending on the severity of the illness, and the use of informed and efficient triage to decide on the order of treatment can save lives, or at the very least improve the extent and rate of recovery of the patient.  Unfortunately, there will be patients whose options for treatment and chances of recovery reduce considerably as a result of delays in being seen or treated. They may find that their condition has worsened considerably as a result, and the impact on their day-to-day life may be seriously and permanently affected.

If you have experienced a significant delay in treatment, or received a quality of care that fell well below an acceptable standard, and want to speak to a medical negligence solicitor in Northern Ireland contact one of the claims specialists at Wilson Nesbitt by clicking here.