ONLY half of the patients in Hunter hospital emergency departments are being treated within recommended time frames, with some waiting up to four times longer for care, a report released today shows.

The Bureau of Health Information’s analysis also reveals that for urgent elective surgery, waiting times are longer and the percentage of patients treated on time is lower in the Hunter than the rest of the state.

The bureau is an independent organisation that monitors the public health system.

Its latest report provides information about the performance of NSW public hospitals from July to September 2011.

The bureau said experts recommend a maximum waiting time in emergency departments until treatment begins of 10 minutes for patients with imminently life-threatening conditions, such as chest pain and severe burns.

In the Hunter New England Local Health District, half of patients in this category started treatment within seven minutes.

But it took up to 38 minutes for 95 per cent of patients to be treated, the report said.

For potentially life-threatening conditions, such as moderate blood loss and dehydration, the maximum recommended waiting time is 30 minutes.

Half of Hunter patients started treatment within 22 minutes, and 95 per cent were treated within 127 minutes.

About 50 per cent of patients with potentially serious and less urgent cases were treated within suggested times, but it took longer than recommended to attend to most patients.

The bureau does not report time to treatment for the less than 1 per cent of patients with immediately life-threatening conditions.

Bureau chief executive Diane Watson said winter months put extra pressure on emergency departments.

In Hunter New England, the median wait for urgent elective surgery was 12 days, compared with 11 for NSW, the report said.

At Calvary Mater Newcastle, the wait was 19 days, and at Belmont Hospital it was 13.

In the region, 91 per cent of patients requiring urgent elective surgery were treated on time, compared with 93 per cent state-wide.

At the Mater, 72 per cent of these patients were treated on time, while at Maitland Hospital it was 88per cent and at John Hunter 91 per cent.

Last month the Newcastle Herald reported that surgery waiting lists had blown out at some Hunter hospitals to almost four times longer than the national average according to public health data.