Health targets: Shorter stays in emergency departments

The Government has directed the Ministry of Health to develop a new set of performance measures to improve health outcomes for New Zealanders.

While work is underway to develop these new measures DHBs will continue to report to the Ministry against the current set of health targets, as well as against a previously established suite of wider measures.

See the Health targets page for more information on the development of new measures.

What is the target?

95% of patients will be admitted, discharged, or transferred from an emergency department (ED) within six hours.

The target indicates how efficiently our acute (urgent) patients are flowing through our public hospitals to get back home again.

Why is this target important?

ED length of stay is an important measure of the quality of acute (emergency and urgent) care in our public hospitals, because:

  • EDs are designed to provide urgent (acute) health care; the timeliness of treatment delivery (and any time spent waiting) is by definition important for patients
  • long stays in emergency departments are linked to overcrowding of the ED
  • the medical and nursing literature has linked both long stays and overcrowding in EDs to negative clinical outcomes for patients such as increased mortality and longer inpatient lengths of stay
  • overcrowding can also lead to compromised standards of privacy and dignity for patients, for instance, through the use of corridor trolleys to house patients.

Target champion

Dr Peter Jones

Dr Peter Jones
Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine with the Department of Surgery at the University of Auckland



Acute Service Improvement Advisor

Dr Peter Jones

Carol Limber
Service Improvement Lead at Canterbury DHB and the System Improvement Advisor at Bay of Plenty and Northland DHB’s.

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