Emergency department waiting times fall

In 2012-13, almost three-quarters of emergency department patients were 'seen on time' for their urgency (triage) category, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Australian hospital statistics 2012-13: emergency department care, shows the number of emergency department visits that were 'seen on time'-meaning treatment was received from a medical officer or nurse within an appropriate time for the urgency category-rose from 70% to 73% between 2008-09 and 2012-13. 

'The proportion 'seen on time' in 2012-13 varied across the states and territories, from 51% in the Australian Capital Territory, to 78% in New South Wales,' said AIHW spokesperson Nigel Harding.

Between 2008-09 and 2012-13, most states and territories reported improvements in waiting time statistics. South Australia recorded the largest improvement in the proportion seen on time, which rose from 64% to 75%. Queensland and Tasmania also achieved notable improvements in the proportion seen on time over this period.

Nationally, almost 100% of resuscitation patients (those requiring treatment immediately) and 82% of emergency patients (requiring treatment within 10 minutes) were seen on time.

Overall, in 2012-13, 50% of patients received treatment within 19 minutes of presenting to the emergency department and 90% received treatment within 1 hour and 41 minutes of presentation.

'More than 6.7 million emergency department presentations were reported by public hospital emergency departments in 2012-13, equating to just over 18,000 presentations each day,' Mr Harding said.

Emergency department presentations rose by 2.5% nationally between 2011-12 and 2012-13, with the largest rises in Tasmania (3.8%) and Queensland (3.7%).

The aim of the National Emergency Access Target is that, by 31 December 2015, 90% of emergency department visits will be completed in 4 hours or less-from arrival, to when they went home or were admitted to the hospital.

In 2012-13, 67% of emergency department visits were completed in 4 hours or less, and this was an increase from 64% in 2011-12.

'Western Australia had the highest proportion of emergency department visits completed within 4 hours and the Australian Capital Territory had the lowest-77% and 57% respectively,' Mr Harding said.

About 27% of emergency department patients were admitted to hospital after their emergency department care. For these patients, a much smaller proportion (36%) were completed (admitted to hospital) within 4 hours and 90% were admitted within 13 hours and 41 minutes. Western Australia had the highest proportion (46%) of emergency department patients admitted in 4 hours or less and the Northern Territory had the lowest (24%).

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.

Canberra, 18 October 2013

Further information: Mr Nigel Harding, AIHW, ph. 02 6244 1025, mob. 0409 307 671