29/11/2018

Almost 300,000 NI Patients Left Waiting For Outpatient Appointments

Nearly 300,000 people in Northern Ireland were left waiting for a consultant-led outpatient appointment in the quarter between June and October, a Department of Health report has revealed.

Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson, Roy Beggs MLA, has warned that the "unprecedented crisis" in hospital waiting times is compromising the safety of patients across the region, and called for Government action to manage the issue.

From June 30 to September 30, the number of patients waiting for their first meeting was 283,497, a rise of 2.8% since the quarterly report in June and 4% since the September 2017 results.

Also uncovered in the report was the fact that 94,222 of those had been waiting longer than a year, compared with 88,598 in the earlier quarter.

The figures include privately funded patents who were waiting to be seen in Health Service hospitals.

In a statement regarding the elective waiting times, the Health and Social Care Board said: "Patients have every right to expect and demand timely care.

"Unfortunately, for reasons that have been well documented, our system is not currently configured to provide that. The only sustainable solution to this is transformation.

"In addition, further investment is required, in addition to the £30m funding announced earlier this year, to clear the backlog of patients waiting for treatment."

MLA for East Antrim, Mr Beggs said it is widely known and medically accepted that longer waiting times expose patients to greater harm.
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"The number of people who are waiting far longer than even the maximum permitted time is at an unprecedented and terrifyingly high level," he warned.

"Never before in the history of Northern Ireland have so many people been waiting, and for such long periods time, just to see a hospital consultant. Our health service is in the midst of a wholly unprecedented crisis and yet instead of action being taken to resolve it, the local system is simply drifting from one worsening situation to the next.

"It has got to the stage now where patients are suffering. Many of the 92,000 people who have been waiting for over a year will be in severe pain and discomfort which may well be affecting their own ability to work or even cope with basic day-to-day tasks."

Mr Beggs continued that he is fearful the coming winter will present more challenges than last year, with the scale of current pressures and record level of staff vacancies facing the region, and called for direct rule in the absence of ministerial leadership.

He said: "We urgently need a Government and an accountable Health Minister in place to drive immediate improvements in our health service.  If this is not being provided by a local Executive, then the Secretary of State and our Westminster Government have a duty to citizens to step in and appoint one.

"Karen Bradley's fanciful policy of sitting on the fence and hoping for the DUP and Sinn Fein to come together to break the political stalemate isn't worth patients coming to any more harm."



(JG/MH)

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