Only 31% of patients admitted to hospital ward within six hours

Ennis and Cork hospitals rated highest by patients, and Limerick lowest

Less than a third of emergency department patients are being admitted to a ward within the Health Service Executive’s target time of six hours, a national survey of patients reveals.

Only 31 per cent of patients were admitted within the target time and 3 per cent said they had waited 48 hours or more before admission, the survey found.

The National Patient Experience Survey is conducted annually by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) in partnership with the HSE and the Department of Health. More than 13,400 patients in Irish hospitals participated in the survey, now in its second year, last May.

Smaller, local hospitals were rated highest by patients for overall experience, while larger hospitals tended to rank lower. Ennis hospital in Co Clare and South Infirmary in Cork scored the highest mark of 9.2 out of 10, followed closely by Mallow, Royal Victoria Ear and Ear and Roscommon hospital on 9.1.


University Hospital Limerick, whose emergency department suffers from chronic overcrowding, scored the lowest overall experience mark of 7.8 followed by Waterford, Wexford, St Vincent’s in Dublin, St Luke’s in Kilkenny and Portiuncula in Ballinasloe on 7.9.

Most patients spoke positively of their care; 84 per cent said they had a good or a very good overall experience in hospital. The main areas of complaint related to overcrowding, privacy, communication by staff and discharge issues.

Maternity units

Minister for Health Simon Harris, who launched the survey in St James's Hospital, said it would be extended to cover maternity units.

The HSE published a 112-page response to the survey outlining the improvement work currently under way across our hospitals to improve patients’ experience. Projects include a programme to improve communications skills of healthcare professionals, initiatives aimed at helping and supporting patients and patient information leaflets on discharge.

Small improvements were identified since the last survey in some areas – care on the ward; examinations, diagnosis and treatments; and discharge and transfer – but there was no change in admissions or patients’ overall rating of care.

Women and younger patients tended to be more critical of services than men or older people.

Four out of five patients said they were always treated with respect and dignity in emergency departments, and patients generally gave positive ratings for cleanliness – 96 per cent said their room was very clean or fairly clean.

But patients were less positive about hospital food, with 27 per cent describing it as poor or fair.

More negative appraisals tended to relate to the perceived lack of time patients had to talk to staff – 4 per cent said they did not always have enough time to discuss their care and treatment with a doctor, while 41 per cent felt their family did not have time to talk to a doctor.

Patients praised the clarity of communications from nurses, the level of trust and confidence in staff, privacy levels, pain management and the availability of help to get to the bathroom.

Areas seen as being in need of improvement were discharge or transfer processes, the limited availability of emotional support from staff and the level of involvement of patients in decisions about their care.

The overall report, as well as individual reports on 39 hospitals and responses from the hospitals themselves, can be accessed online at

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.