Emergency Care Waiting Time Statistics (July - September 2022)

Date published: 04 November 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 July, August and September 2022

doh latest statistics

The statistical bulletin presents information on all new and unplanned review attendances during July, August and September 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 Emergency Care Waiting Times Website.

Key Points

Attendances at Emergency Care Departments:

Urgent and Emergency Care Attendances:

  • In September 2022, 13,456 calls / attendances were received by PhoneFirst and Urgent Care Centre services, from patients who may previously have attended an ED. A total of 2,363 (17.6%) resulted in an attendance at an ED, whilst 11,093 patients did not go on to attend an ED.
  • During September 2022, 62,839 patients in total attended an ED, and 11,093 attended PhoneFirst / Urgent Care Centre services without further referral to an ED; a total of 73,932 patients attending all urgent and emergency care services.

Emergency Care Attendances:

  • During September 2022, there were 62,839 attendances at EDs in Northern Ireland, 1,443 (2.4%) more than in September 2021 (61,396).
  • Of the 62,839 ED attendances during September 2022, 54,715 (87.1%) had attended a Type 1 ED, 2,780 (4.4%) attended a Type 2 ED and 5,344 (8.5%) attended a Type 3 ED.
  • Between September 2021 and September 2022, attendances increased at Type 1 EDs (1,237, 2.3%) and Type 3 EDs (564, 11.8%) but decreased at Type 2 EDs (358, 11.4%).
  • There were 189,669 attendances at EDs during the quarter ending 30 September 2022, 0.7% (1,374) more than during the same quarter in 2021 (188,295).

Left before Treatment Complete:

  • During September 2022, 6.4% of all ED attendances left before their treatment was complete, compared with 6.7% in September 2021.

Unplanned Re-Attendances within 7 Days:

  • During September 2022, 3.5% of the 62,839 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 September 2022, almost one in six (16.3%) attendances at EDs had been referred by a GP, compared with 14.8% in September 2021.

Time Spent in Emergency Care Departments:

Performance against Targets

  • Almost half (45.2%) of attendances at Type 1 EDs in September 2022 spent less than 4 hours in ED, compared with 81.4% at Type 2 EDs and 99.0% at Type 3 EDs.
  • Over eight in ten (81.4%) patients attending a Type 2 ED in September 2022 were treated and discharged, or admitted within 4 hours of their arrival, compared with 78.7% in September 2021.
  • Almost all (99.0%) patients attending a Type 3 ED were treated and discharged, or admitted within 4 hours of their arrival, compared with 99.8% in September 2021.
  • Between September 2021 and September 2022, the number waiting over 12 hours increased from 7,161 to 8,832, accounting for 14.1% of attendances in September 2022.
  • Almost two thirds (65.5%) of patients attending EDs commenced their treatment within 2 hours of being triaged, compared with 69.7% in September 2021.
  • During the quarter ending 30 September 2022, over half (50.5%) of patients spent less than 4 hours at an ED, compared to 54.1% 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 13 minutes during September 2022, with 95 percent of patients having their care needs assessed for the first time by a medical professional within 1 hour 13 minutes of arrival.

Time to Start of Treatment:

  • During September 2022, the median waiting time from triage to the start of treatment by a medical professional was 1 hour 11 minutes, with 95 percent of patients receiving treatment within 6 hours 26 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 45 minutes in September 2022, 13 minutes more than the time taken during the same month last year (3 hours 32 minutes).
  • The median time patients who were admitted to hospital spent in a Type 1 ED was 13 hours 36 minutes in September 2022, 2 hours 20 minutes more than the same month last year (11 hours 16 minutes).
  • During September 2022, Altnagelvin Area reported the longest median time spent in ED from arrival to admission (18 hours 57 minutes), whilst the RBHSC reported the shortest time (4 hours 30 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 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.’

  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 available on the DoH website.
  3. 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 available on the civilservice.gov.uk website.
  4. 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 Wednesday 26 October 2022.

Further information on Emergency Care Statistics is available from:

Hospital Information Branch
Department of Health
Annexe 2, Castle Buildings
Email:              statistics@health-ni.gov.uk
Internet:              DoH Statistics and Research

9. For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office by email pressoffice@health-ni.gov.uk.

10. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt

11. 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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