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Hospital Performance: Time patients spent in emergency departments in 2011–12

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Introduction

The National Emergency Access Target (NEAT)

The National Emergency Access Target (NEAT) was agreed by COAG in 2011. States and territories have agreed varying annual targets for 2012, 2013 and 2014 for the percentage of patients who, after attending an ED, are admitted to the respective hospital, referred to another hospital, or discharged within the four-hour timeframe.

In 2012, the target ranges from 76% in Western Australia to 64% in the Australian Capital Territory, while in 2014 it varies from 85% in Western Australia to 81% in the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria.

COAG established an Expert Panel in May 2011 to provide recommendations on how NEAT might best be implemented. The panel noted the main goal of NEAT was to ‘improve patient safety and quality of care by removing obstacles to patient flow that contribute to emergency department overcrowding’.

The Expert Panel advised that NEAT should ‘drive process and systemic change and [be] a measure against which to monitor progress’.1

The target reaches 90% nationally in 2015. It was not set at 100% as, in some circumstances, it is clinically appropriate for patients to stay in ED beyond four hours.

1. Expert Panel Review of Elective Surgery and Emergency Access Targets under the National Partnership Agreement on Improving Public Hospital Services, 30 June 2011.

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