'It's Time To Declare A Health Care Emergency'

The latest official healthcare figures have revealed the continued misery facing patients across Northern Ireland.

Publication of the most recent waiting time statistics has prompted calls to declare a health care emergency, as it emerges that over 300,000 people are on a waiting list to see a consultant.

The figure represents an all time high for Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

While targets state that at least 50% of patients should wait no longer than nine weeks for their first outpatient appointment, 75.9% (232,239) have been waiting longer, and over 35% have waited over a year.

The same backlog exists when it comes to waiting lists for diagnostic services and inpatient and day case admission.

At the end of September, some 140,237 patients were left waiting for a diagnostic appointment, with 56.9% of those left without a diagnosis for longer than nine weeks.
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According to Ministerial guidelines, 75% of patients should be seen within those first nine weeks. Almost 18,000 more people were awaiting confirmation of their condition in September than in the same period last year.

Ulster Unionist Party Leader Steve Aiken MLA said it's time to declare a healthcare emergency, as the crisis deepens and scale of human tragedy grows.

"Never before in the 70-year history of the NHS in Northern Ireland have things been so serious," Mr Aiken said. "With every passing month our waiting times, across almost every speciality and patient type, are getting worse.

"Crisis is no longer a strong enough word to describe what is happening - it's now a healthcare emergency and it needs to be officially declared as such."

As the region continues to suffer the longest waiting times felt in any UK region, Mr Aiken said the situation is bringing local patients to harm.

"There is no doubt that the health of local patients is being harmed by these spiralling delays," he continued. "Our waiting times would simply not be tolerated anywhere else."


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