This report provides an overview of care provided in public hospital emergency departments in Australia.

Emergency department activity increasing

In 2017–18, more than 8 million patients presented to Australian public hospital emergency departments—an average of about 22,000 patients per day. This was 3.4% higher than the previous year (compared with 2.7% growth per year between 2013–14 and 2017–18).

Principal diagnoses in the ICD-10-AM chapter Injury, poisoning and certain other consequences of external causes accounted for about one in four presentations (almost 2 million). These include fractures, burns, toxic effects of medicinal and non-medicinal substances, and other complications.

Patients aged 4 and under (who make up less than 7% of the population—ABS 2018) accounted for 11% of presentations, and patients aged 65 and over (who make up about 15% of the population) accounted for 22% of presentations.

Older patients were more likely to be assigned a triage category of Resuscitation, Emergency or Urgent than younger patients. Older patients were also more likely to be subsequently admitted to the hospital.

Around three-quarters of patients received care on time

In 2017–18, 72% of patients were ‘seen on time’, including almost all of those requiring immediate care and 76% of those requiring care within 10 minutes. The overall proportion seen on time has declined since 2013–14 (75%).

Of all emergency department presentations:

  • 90% of patients were seen within 1 hour and 39 minutes. This measure was fairly consistent over the previous four years, varying from 1 hour and 33 minutes to 1 hour and 35 minutes
  • 50% of patients were seen within 19 minutes, consistent with waiting times for the previous year, and similar to waiting times in 2013–14 (18 minutes).

Fewer ED visits were completed within 4 hours

In 2017–18:

  • overall, 71% of ED visits were completed within 4 hours—ranging from 61% in South Australia to 76% in Western Australia
  • 90% of ED visits were completed within 7 hours and 14 minutes.