Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs has accused the Health Minister of trying to deflect attention from the growing crisis in Northern Ireland’s accident and emergency units. The East Antrim MLA was speaking after the Minister sought to highlight a reduction in the number of people waiting over 12 hours in A&Es, whilst failing to address the issue that the number of people not being treated in the normal 4 hour target is rising rapidly year-on-year.
Roy Beggs MLA said;
“Whilst Northern Ireland has a target to treat 95% of patients attending our main emergency departments within 4 hours, recently released figures show that the proportion of people treated on time and discharged home or admitted in 2013/14 was 78.1%. That appalling figure even breaks the record low rate of 78.5% witnessed in 2012/13.
“Whilst I do note that there has been some progress made in addressing the issue of people waiting over 12 hours, we need to remember that Northern Ireland is meant to have a target of having no one waiting over that length of time. Unfortunately in the last year alone over 3,000 people still had to endure that wait across our hospitals. The problem was most acute in the Ulster A&E and Antrim Area A&E, with over 1,000 and 870 breaches respectively. So whilst the Minister is technically correct to say the number is slightly less than the year before, he is intentionally ignoring the fact that there shouldn’t have been any breaches at all.
“The bigger problem across our A&Es however remains the number of people not being treated within 4 hours of walking through the hospital door. In 2013/14 there were almost 149,000 breaches. The figure has been spiralling in recent years from 118,000 in 2010/11, 125,000 in 2011/12, 141,000 in 2012/13 to almost 149,000 last year.
“Instead of spinning, the Minister would be better being upfront and honest about what is really happening in our hospitals. By singling out one area where there has been some improvement, but ignoring the much bigger problem which has affected 50 times the number of people, the Minister is deliberately trying to deflect attention from the very real crisis in our hospitals.
“In the Assembly on Tuesday I directly challenged the Minister why he was unable to properly get to grips with the wider problem, and how this was posing an increased risk of further serious adverse incidents. Unfortunately his response, as usual, left much to be desired.”