Minister Brands Hospital Waiting Times 'Appalling'

Waiting times for consultant-led outpatient appointments in Northern Ireland's hospitals are "quite simply appalling" the Health Minister has said.

Robin Swann called for sustained additional investment to tackle backlogs as it emerged that over 300,000 patients were waiting for their first appointment at the end of 2019.

The 305,017 people left waiting marks an increase of 8.3%- over 23,000 people- on the previous year.

Department of Health targets state that half of patients should be seen within nine weeks and no-one should be waiting over a year by the end of next month.

In the last quarter, however, over three quarters waited more than nine weeks and over a third, some 111,963 people, had found themselves on a waiting list for more than one year.

An additional 1,319 patients were waiting for their first consultant-led outpatient appointment at a Regional Assessment and Surgical Centre for cataract treatment.

This is in spite of the launch of new centres for day procedures such as cataract operations and varicose vein procedures, which had been intended to slash waiting times and boost capacity.

Health Minister Swann expressed his disappointment at the latest figures.

He cited the commitments of the New Decade New Approach deal as a starting point, specifically that no one waiting over a year on 30 September 2019 for either outpatient or inpatient assessment and treatment will still be on a waiting list by March 2021.

"Behind the statistics are many thousands of our citizens facing unending pain and worry," Minister Swann said.

"Far too many people are waiting far too long for assessment and treatment.

"Let me make this statement of intent as Health Minister – we can and must put this right."

The target will require around £50 million in the upcoming health budget, as well as help from the UK and Republic of Ireland.

"The New Decade New Approach commitment should be seen as just a first step in dealing with the waiting list crisis," the Minister said.

"Sustained additional investment over future years will be needed. That means investment not just on dealing with waiting list backlogs but also increasing the system's in-house capacity to provide assessment and treatment.

"This will include building our health and social care workforce and reshaping the way we provide services as part of the transformation process."


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