Some progress on emergency department and elective surgery waiting times

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has today released its report, Australian hospital statistics: National emergency access and elective surgery targets 2012. The report shows the extent to which states and territories are improving performance and have met targets specified in the National Partnership Agreement on Improving Public Hospital Services in 2012.

The National Emergency Access Target (NEAT) sets annual targets for each state and territory to achieve continual improvement in the proportion of emergency department presentations completed within 4 hours.

In 2012, 65.5% of patients presenting to a public hospital emergency department in Australia had their visits to the emergency department completed in 4 hours or less.

Five states and territories achieved higher proportions than their 2009-10 baseline percentages - Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT. Percentages ranged from 56.7% in the Australian Capital Territory to 78.5% in Western Australia.

However, Western Australia was the only state to achieve a proportion greater than its 2012 emergency access target.

The National Elective Surgery Target (NEST) sets out annual targets for each state and territory to progressively improve the proportion of patients seen within the clinically recommended time for their clinical urgency categories. (There are three clinical urgency categories-Categories 1, 2 and 3, within 30, 90 and 365 days respectively.)

Six states and territories (all except Victoria and Western Australia) achieved proportions seen on time greater than or equal to their 2010 baselines for two or more clinical urgency categories, and three (NSW, ACT and NT) achieved proportions greater than their targets for two or more urgency categories.

All states and territories committed to providing treatment or referral during 2012 to the top 10% of most overdue patients in each urgency category who were waiting at the end of 2011. Five states and territories achieved this (New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and the ACT).

In 2012 there were almost 671,000 hospital admissions in Australia from public hospital elective surgery waiting lists, as either an elective or an emergency admission.

Median waiting times ranged from 27 days in Queensland to 55 days in the ACT.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.


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