The number of people waiting longer than 12 hours for treatment in the emergency department of the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) has risen by almost 900 per cent from 11 in September 2017 to 108 in September 2018.

The SWAH figures were included in a publication by the Department of Health (DOH) which revealed the emergency care waiting time statistics for the ten major emergency departments in Northern Ireland from July to September 2018.

Of the 3,094 people who attended SWAH in September 2018, 63.8 per cent were discharged or admitted to hospital within four hours. In the same month last year the percentage was 78.9 per cent.

The current DOH targets state that 95 per cent of patients attending any emergency care department should be either treated and discharged home, or admitted, within four hours of their arrival in the department, and no patient should wait longer than twelve hours.

Of the ten major emergency departments featured in the DOH publication, SWAH was reported to have one of the largest increases in attendances during September 2018, compared with September 2017. The total number of people who attended SWAH in September 2018 was 3,094, this was 285 more than in September 2017. This large increase in attendances may have put extra pressure on hospital resources resulting in the increase in emergency department waiting times.

When this newspaper asked the Western Health and Social Care Trust (Western Trust) if they had any indication for the large increase in total attendances and if they are planning to take any steps to try and redress the drop in the four hour performance target, a spokeswoman said:

“In common with other Emergency Departments (ED) across Northern Ireland, South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) does experience challenges relating to the increasing number of attendances to our ED year on year.

“The Western Trust is committed to ensuring that patients wait for as short a time as possible at our Emergency Departments and have measures in place to triage, treat, admit or discharge patients as quickly as possible.

“We apologise to patients who have experienced a long wait in our Emergency Department.”