Fewer than one in three patients admitted to wards within HSE target of six hours

FEWER THAN ONE in three patients who attended Ireland’s emergency departments last year were admitted to ward within a HSE target time of six hours, a new survey has found.

The 2021 National Inpatient Experience Survey reveals that long waiting times in emergency departments remain a problem, with just 29% of people admitted to a ward within the six-hour target time.

10,743 participants took part in the survey from 40 hospitals and left over 20,000 written comments about the quality of care provided.

Over 300 people (4%) said that they waited 48 hours or more to be admitted.

However, 83% of patients rated their experience of hospital care as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ and gave high ratings of cleanliness, pain management, confidence and trust in hospital staff

Speaking today, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly emphasized the positive feedback from the surveys but acknowledged the health system’s shortcomings.

“It is encouraging to see that patients continue to have positive experiences of being treated with dignity and respect and having confidence and trust in hospital staff,” the Minister said.

“The survey findings also highlight that there is still room for improvement, and it is absolutely essential the health service listens and responds when patients share their experience.”

“2021 was another exceptionally challenging year for our frontline healthcare workers and hospital staff; they have continued to demonstrate their ongoing commitment and dedication to our patients throughout the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.

Sinn Fein’s spokesperson for health, David Cullinane told The Journal that an increase in GP capacity and homecare supports is needed to combat these issues.

“I don’t see any plan from the government on how to deal with the crisis in emergency departments. We have a huge number of patients going to emergency departments because they can’t get the appropriate care elsewhere,” he said.

“We have people who should be seen in community settings or should be cared for at home. We have a shortage of admissions beds in some hospitals where patients can’t be admitted quickly because the inpatient beds aren’t there.

“In addition to that there are people who could be getting discharged for care in a community setting where recovery beds are available but they aren’t getting discharged quickly enough,” Cullinane concluded.

39% of those who responded were between the age of 66 and 80, and 78% of responses came from emergency department admissions.

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The survey flagged other areas for improvement based on the experiences of participants.

10% of people felt that they did not have adequate time to discuss care and treatment with a doctor and 16% of people felt they did not have enough information on how to manage their conditions when they were discharged.

Other respondents sought more emotional support as well as more opportunities for their family members to meet with medical staff.

The general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, Phil Ní Sheaghdha called on the government to address these issues.

“The implications of hospital overcrowding and delayed care have been well flagged by Irish nurses and midwives. They are the ones who often have to explain to patients and their families why conditions in our hospitals are so poor.

“We welcome the confirmation that nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals continue to work in very difficult situations but do their best and treat everyone with dignity and respect. This is reiterated throughout the survey and is important for those that work in these very difficult circumstances to hear this affirmation from the public.

“The results of this survey coupled with the calls of Irish nurses and midwives must inform any strategy Government and the HSE have to tackle chronic overcrowding in our hospitals,” she said.

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