Press Release

‘Government actions already underway now making progress on A&E’- Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney TD

The Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney TD, said today that the Government and the HSE continue to give top priority to improving A&E services for patients.

She said, ‘The current actions of the Government and HSE are making progress on specific improvements in waiting times for patients, tailored to each of the 35 hospitals with A&E departments. Progress on this hospital-by-hospital work is reported on a daily basis, a first in the Irish health service.

‘Any policy proposals must identify specific outcomes and improvements for patients in specific timeframes. This is the approach now being taken hospital-by-hospital by the HSE.’

The Minister said;

  • A&E services are improving around the country. Fewer people are awaiting admission to ward beds and they are waiting shorter times.
  • Month on month, and week by week, compared to last year, the numbers of people waiting for admission is down between 30 and 50 per cent. The Government and the HSE are working to achieve greater progress for patients.
  • Averages of people awaiting admission to ward beds nationally:
    • June 2005 – 178 – – -June 2006 – 109
    • July 2005 – 152 – – – July 2006 – 95
    • August 2005 – 168 – – – August 2006 – 87

We are determined to sustain these improvements into winter.

  • We are reducing waiting times for patients. In nearly half of all A&Es, people are admitted to ward beds without any delay at all. About 3,300 people a day attend A&E. Three quarters are treated and return home. The clear majority of those needing admission – about two thirds to three quarters – wait for less than six hours. The HSE is working to keep the number of people waiting any longer than that to a minimum.
  • Waiting times are not captured by the ‘trolley count’. There is a big difference between 100 patients waiting 2 hours and 10 patients waiting over 12 hours.
  • The staff at all 35 hospitals with A&E departments are working hard to achieve permanent improvements. We support them in this work. It is not fair to their efforts and it undermines morale to talk constantly about an ‘A&E Crisis’, refusing to accept the improvements that are being achieved by staff throughout the country.
  • Long term care beds: The HSE is acquiring long term care beds to enable people to leave hospital when medically ready, and free up hospital beds. So far this year, over 500 new beds have been acquired. We are continuing to acquire about 200 more beds from the private sector and within the public sector.
  • A&E Consultants: Since 1997, the government have created 39 new A&E consultant posts. For the previous three years, no new A&E consultants were appointed.
  • Discharge policy: 455 people who were in hospital have already been provided with new home care packages this year. Discharge planning is much more actively managed now than previously. Approximately 700 patients this year have availed of step-down beds under the 10 Point Plan.
  • A&E Hygiene: Hospital hygiene has been one of my top priorities. We have already had two national hygiene audits, which arose out of the A&E Ten Point Plan. Hospital hygiene is demonstrably improving now. In the first hygiene audit, 48 per cent of hospitals rated as having a poor standard of hygiene. In the second hygiene audit, this reduced to 4 per cent, i.e. 2 hospitals. A third hygiene audit is underway.
  • New hospital beds: since 1997, we have increased acute hospital beds by about 200 per year – more than 6 times the rate in the mid-90s. Under the Government’s capital programme, 450 new beds are in planning, and the co-location initiative will free up nearly 1,000 new public hospital beds.
  • Information helpline: The HSE already has an information helpline in operation, 1850-241850 that provides information on services, including about GPs nationally. It is already planned to expand it to a 24 hour service.
  • Patient safety and comfort at A&E: We are already improving A&E departments with extra beds to ensure safety, comfort and dignity for patients. These have either opened or are nearing completion at Tallaght Hospital, the Mater Hospital, St. James, Cavan General, Wexford General, Mercy Cork, Our Lady of Lourdes Drogheda and Naas, for example.
  • Our of hours GP services: out of hours services are being developed already. With the coming on-stream of the northside Dublin city out of hours service, 90 per cent of the population will receive out of hours service.