How many emergency department presentations were there?

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

Emergency department presentations increased by 4.0% on average each year between 2008-09 and 2012-13. After adjusting for changes in the coverage of the collection, the increase was about 2.9% on average each year.

Between 2011-12 and 2012-13, emergency department presentations increased by 2.5% nationally, with the largest increases in Tasmania (3.8%) and Queensland (3.7%).

A greater proportion of patients presented to emergency departments over the weekends and on Mondays compared with the other days of the week, and 69% of patients arrived between the hours of 8am and 8pm.

How long did patients wait?

In 2012-13, 50% of patients received treatment by a medical officer or nurse within 19 minutes of presenting to the emergency department and 90% received treatment within 101 minutes of presentation.

From 2008-09 to 2012-13, the overall proportion of patients 'seen on time' increased from 70% to 73%.

In 2012-13, the proportion 'seen on time' varied across the states and territories, from 51% in the Australian Capital Territory, to 78% in New South Wales. Almost 100% of resuscitation patients (those requiring treatment immediately) and 82% of emergency patients (requiring treatment within 10 minutes) were seen on time.

About 5% of emergency presentations were for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In the largest hospitals, about 70% of Indigenous Australians were seen on time, compared with 72% for other Australians.

How long did patients stay?

Generally, the length of treatment time (the amount of time between the start and end of clinical care) was longer for patients who were subsequently admitted to the hospital and for patients who required more urgent treatment. For patients who were subsequently admitted, 8% had a treatment time of less than an hour; for other patients, 32% had a treatment time of less than an hour.

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. In 2012-13, just over two-thirds (67%) of emergency department visits were completed in 4 hours or less-an increase from 64% in 2011-12. Western Australia had the highest proportion (77%) of emergency department visits completed in 4 hours or less and the Australian Capital Territory had the lowest (57%).

About 27% of emergency department patients were admitted to hospital after their emergency department care. For these patients, 36% had completed their emergency department visit in 4 hours or less, 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%).