Govt Paid Consultants £250,000 To Reduce Waiting Lists With No Impact

Almost £250,000 paid out to consultants as part of a strategy to cut waiting lists at hospitals across Northern Ireland has had no impact, an Audit Office investigation has discovered.

The Southern Trust forked out the £247,000 as part of the Waiting List Initiative (WLI).

Health professionals employed to fulfill the work and help reduce demand completed all the work allocated to them in the evening and weekend clinics, but not enough appointments were scheduled to justify the expenditure.

The revelation was published on Tuesday 18 December in the General Report on the Health and Social Care sector.

Concluding the review, the Comptroller and Auditor General Kieran Donnelly warned that "the health and social care system, as currently configured, is simply unable to cope with the demands being placed on it".
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He continued: "Consequently, far too many patients endured unacceptable long waiting times for treatment. My report makes the urgency of the reform agenda clear and emphasises the need for long term financial planning in the health sector."

The audit of the WLI payments made by the Southern Trust from April 2015 to March 2016 identified that the public body had "entered into an agreement with consultants which was based on the number of cases it expected to be completed during 4 hour in-house sessions".

The report found that while six out of eight consultants were paid for 3,856 hours (964 WLI sessions), the Trust only received 2,162 productive hours. They say this resulted in "1,694 hours at a cost of £247,000 being paid where the Trust received no impact on waiting lists".

Mr Donnelly added: "Since we last reported, performance in respect of key waiting time targets has clearly been very disappointing. Going forward, I can only conclude that the rising demand for services, which is increasingly exceeding health service capacity, together with ongoing uncertainty over future funding, will significantly impact on the ability of HSC Trusts to meet future population need."


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