Investment Needed To Tackle Hospital Waiting Lists

"Sustained investment" is required to address the backlog of hospital waiting lists, the Department of Health has said today.

It comes as the most recent quarterly statistics reveal that over 288,754 patients were waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment at the end of March 2019.

That figure is up by 7,003 on December last year and 18,920 (7%) on March 2018.

Over three quarters (213,708) of patients waited more than nine weeks, while around a third (97,851) waited over one year.

The figures exceed the Ministerial targets for outpatient waiting times which stand at 50% of patients waiting no longer than nine weeks, with no one expected to wait longer than 52 weeks.

The DoH said waiting times have been continually rising since 2014 as a result of wider financial pressures on the system, with budgets increasingly stretched to maintain existing services and funding to suppress waiting time growth limited in supply.
News Image
Alongside sustained investment, longer term action is also required to prevent the problem recurring. That means transformation of health and social care – improving the capacity of the system to ensure that the growing demand for care is met. The gap between current capacity and demand will not be bridged in any other way, according to the DoH.

Transformation initiatives include the establishment of day case elective care centres – new standalone specialist day surgery units. Centres for cataract and varicose veins have been operational since December 2018 and there are plans to transfer thousands of other day case routine operations to dedicated elective care centre locations by December 2020. 

The worrying waiting time statistics are mirrored in terms of diagnostic services. Ministerial targets stated that by March 2019, 75% of patients should wait no longer than nine weeks for a diagnostic test, with no patient waiting longer than 26 weeks.

130,351 were still waiting for a diagnostic test however, with almost half (64,360) waiting over nine weeks and 21.7% (28,310) left for over 26 weeks.


Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

05 November 2019
Pharmacies To Offer Free Flu Jab To Health Staff
A pilot service offering frontline health and social care workers a free flu vaccine in their local pharmacy has been launched in the North West. Piloting the scheme in counties Fermanagh, Tyrone and L'Derry, the Health and Social Care Board hopes the scheme will make the jab a lot more convenient for staff.
12 November 2019
Motorists Warned To Drive With Caution
Drivers are being urged to reduce their speed and exercise caution on the roads due to adverse weather conditions. Police said there has been a number of reports of surface water affecting roads, with motorists reminded to take extra care when travelling today, Tuesday 12 November.
05 November 2019
Prepare For Winter Driving Conditions
Road users are urged to take extra care on the roads throughout the darker months as the roads service gears up to manage the challenges of winter driving. As the cold sets in and daylight hours grow shorter, the Government is preparing around 300 staff, 130 gritters and 12 snow blowers for operation between now and April.
02 September 2005
Outpatient hospital waiting list figures rise
The number of people waiting for a first outpatient appointment has increased in the last three months by almost 6%. The figures published by the Department of Health revealed that the number of patients waiting for an initial outpatient consultation had risen by 9,385 to 176,523, an increase of 5.6% on the previous quarter.
02 April 2003
Rise in transplant waiting list sparks donor appeal
The latest figures from the office of the Transplant Co-ordinator in Belfast City Hospital have revealed that the number of people in the province awaiting organ transplants has risen. Some 240 people are currently waiting for major organ transplants such as heart, kidney, liver or lungs - an increase of almost 60 people on this time last year.