Improving service levels in hospitals

100% of all triage category 1, 95% of triage category 2 and 85% of triage category 3 patients commencing treatment on time by 2023. 

Busy Hospital Scene

Why is this important?

Each year more than 1.5 million patients present to NSW public hospital emergency departments with life-threatening or emergency conditions that require immediate or urgent treatment. Timely access to emergency services in a patient’s most urgent and critical time of need improves health outcomes for patients and alleviates stress and anxiety for families and carers. 

Despite the growing number of people accessing our emergency departments, NSW is the top-performing state in Australia in terms of the timeliness of emergency care but we are ambitious to do more. This priority will support the health system to improve this critical emergency service. 

How are we tracking?

We know that time to treatment is critical to good health outcomes. We are working on a number of strategies to ensure we are seeing the most critical patients (based on triage category) within clinically recommended timeframes. This priority focuses on maintaining the performance of triage category 1, whilst continuing to lift the performance of triage categories 2 and 3. 

The percentage of triage category 1 (immediately life-threatening) patients seen on time has remained at 100% for several years. In 2021-22, fewer triage category 2 (imminently life-threatening) and triage category 3 (potentially life-threatening) patients were seen on time than in the previous financial year, however we also had record numbers of triage category 2 patients presenting to our emergency departments in that period.

Download the Improving service levels in hospitals data information sheet (PDF 162.29KB)

What are we doing? 

‘Triage’ is a national scale used in hospital emergency departments to ensure that patients are treated in the order of their clinical urgency and allocated to the most appropriate assessment and treatment areas. Patients who present with life-threatening injuries and illnesses are prioritised. 

The scale consists of 5 categories, which establish the maximum waiting time recommended for the medical assessment and treatment of patients.

Patients are assigned a category by appropriately trained and experienced staff on arrival to the emergency department.

*Not included in the Premier’s Priority target
Triage Category Time to Treatment National target % of patients seen 'on time' NSW Premier's Priority targets
Triage 1 Immediate 100% 100%
Triage 2 10 minutes 80% 95%
Triage 3 30 minutes 75% 85%
Triage 4 60 minutes 70% 70%*
Triage 5 120 minutes 70% 70%*

In the face of increasing demands on the health system, the NSW Government remains committed to implementing strategies to improve emergency department performance. This includes:

  • a $4.5 billion commitment over 4 years, funding an additional 10,148 full time equivalent staff across hospitals and health services
  • the establishment of 25 urgent care services across the state
  • expanding virtual models of care to support people with mild to moderate symptoms in their homes, which allows hospital emergency departments to focus on patients who require emergency care
  • streaming patients through clinical pathways relating to their condition
  • standardising nurse-initiated protocols to enable early commencement of treatment for patients following triage
  • providing intensive performance support to underperforming hospitals
  • supporting staff to develop strong leadership, culture, and collaborative partnerships as a way of enhancing performance.

NSW has more than 230 public hospitals. Search for a hospital or health service in the health services directory. 

Do you need help?

Healthdirect is a national phone line where you can access health advice, 24/7.

Call 1800 022 222 to speak to a registered nurse who can provide health advice when you’re not sure what to do. They may advise you to go to your local GP, manage the condition at home, or go to an emergency department.  

Anyone who is experiencing a medical emergency should present to their nearest emergency department or call 000

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