A new web resource to enable people to access average waiting time information for local Emergency Departments was launched today.
The Emergency Department (ED) Waiting Times Information Page is an online tool that allows the public to check the average ED waiting times at hospitals across Northern Ireland.
The online facility is hosted on the NI Direct website, the official Government website for Northern Ireland, which provides a single point of access to public sector information and services.
The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), Public Health Agency (PHA), Patient and Client Council (PCC) and Business Services Organisation have developed this useful facility working with representatives of patients and service users from the Patient and Client Council User Group.
Mary Hinds Director of Nursing with the PHA explained how the new page worked:
“The waiting time information is updated hourly and shows the average waiting time to be treated by a doctor or nurse. All patients will already have been triaged by staff on arrival, so the time shown is for treatment not assessment. Also, it is important for the public to be aware that waiting times at emergency departments can change significantly and quickly without warning, and therefore the times given here are not a guarantee of how long you will actually wait.
“On attendance at the ED normal assessment protocol applies. Patients who have been assessed by medical staff and considered most in need, ie those patients who are most sick or seriously injured, will be given priority over those people with less serious conditions or injuries,” she said.
The Permanent Secretary from the Department of Health, Richard Pengelly, said the information page will help support people in making appropriate choices about the care and treatment they require.
“It provides signposts to the Choose Well public information campaign, which gives advice on the various care and treatment alternatives available and encourages people to “think where and choose well”. By choosing the service most appropriate to their symptoms people can get the right treatment in the right place thereby helping staff in our Emergency Services concentrate on the people who are the most sick or most seriously injured,” he said.
Maeve Hully, Chief Executive of the Patient Client Council, said: “‘I am delighted this information is now available. Accurate information, particularly around waiting times is important to people and is essential for making informed choices about accessing emergency care.
“The engagement of patients in the creation of the resource ensures that the information provided is accessible, relevant and useful to members of the public.”
Members of the public are reminded that each hospital or unit across the five Health and Social Care Trusts, provides different types of emergency services. The page gives information on the type of service being provided and the opening times to allow people to make informed choices about the type of care they need to access.
Patients who are in need of serious medical attention including people experiencing chest pain, severe bleeding or stroke symptoms should call 999 or go directly to their nearest Emergency Department.