I thank the Deputy for his question. As he mentioned, emergency department attendances have reached 2019 levels and exceeded them in some places. In 2019, 1.34 million people attended emergency departments and approximately 350,000 of them were admitted. I acknowledge the work of our front-line staff in keeping the emergency departments open throughout the pandemic.
Our figures for attendances underestimate the seriousness of the situation. Not only are attendances at 2019 levels, but many of the people attending are sicker, they have deferred their care, they now need more treatment and their average length of stay is longer. All of this is contributing to very significant pressures on our emergency departments. It is only October and we are facing into a tough time.
Tackling the issue of patients having to wait on trolleys is a top priority. Last year, we deployed €600 million as a winter plan. Critically, we locked the majority of that in through the budget for this year. This meant more beds, more diagnostics, more alternative care pathways outside the hospital sector and more home care supports. All of that is still in place, but we are doing more again with the HSE and the Department this year.
The NAS has undergone a significant process of modernisation, but its 2016 strategy did not get the funding for the level of change that was required. I agree that there are gaps in the service and that they need to be addressed. This year, I allocated a full €10 million to the NAS in additional funding, including €5 million in enhanced community funding, which has helped with the see and treat, and hear and treat, alternative care pathways, allowing the National Emergency Operations Centre to manage the low-acuity calls and try to keep people out of hospital.
As the Deputy will be aware, the HSE and the NAS are developing a new five-year plan. To help with that, I have allocated €8.3 million in new development funding next year and I have protected some of the underspend from this year.