Despite continued increases in activity, emergency department waiting times are relatively stable

In 2015–16, there were 7.5 million presentations to public hospital emergency departments across Australia (excluding the Australian Capital Territory), or more than 20,000 presentations each day.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report Emergency department care 2015–16: Australian hospital statistics presents national and state‑level hospital data and shows rising numbers of presentations to Australia's public hospital emergency departments.

'Between 2011–12 and 2015–16, after adjusting for the number of hospitals included, presentations to emergency departments increased by 2.7% each year on average,' said AIHW spokesperson Jenny Hargreaves.

In 2015–16, people who used emergency department services were most commonly aged 15‑24 years and 25-34 years (both about 14%), similar to the proportions of the population these age groups comprised.

However, patients aged 65 and over (who make up about 15% of the population) accounted for about 20% of presentations, while patients aged 4 and under (who make up less than 7% of the population) accounted for more than 11%.

'More than a quarter of emergency department presentations (27%) were due to an injury or poisoning,' Ms Hargreaves said.

The proportion of emergency department patients who were 'seen on time' (within the time specified for their triage category) was 74% in 2015–16, the same as the previous year, but up from 72% in 2011–12.

'Essentially all patients who required clinical care immediately were seen on time, compared with 77% for those requiring care within 10 minutes, and 67% for those requiring care within 30 minutes,' Ms Hargreaves said.

Emergency department patients are spending less time in the emergency department, with 73% of visits completed in 4 hours or less, the same as in 2014–15 and an improvement on the 64% seen in 2011–12.

About 2.2 million patients (29%) were admitted to hospital from the emergency department, with 49% admitted within 4 hours, and 90% admitted within 10 hours and 43 minutes.

Hospital specific emergency department information is expected to be published on the AIHW's MyHospitals website in early December.

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