Latest Hospital Waiting Times Show Scale Of The Crisis

The latest hospital waiting lists show the scale of the crisis and demonstrate the need for multi-year funding, Health Minister Robin Swann has said.

Commenting on the newly published figures from the Department of Health, Minister Swann said: "These figures clearly show the scale of our waiting list crisis and starkly demonstrate the need for multi-year funding to tackle our waiting list situation.

"At 31 December 2023, across four Trusts, 341,910 patients were waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment. This is a 1% increase than on 30 September 2023 and 9.8% increase from 31 December 2022.

"However, these statistics also demonstrate that small gains have been made, within a constrained financial climate, through hard work across the health system with the implementation of the Elective Care Framework.

"Whilst waiting lists for inpatient and day case admission are still at unacceptable levels there has been a sustained reduction in the number of patients waiting.

"This is the sixth quarter in a row where the treatment waiting lists have reduced. This is the longest sustained reduction since at least 2008.

"Overall there has been a 6.4% reduction in patients waiting for inpatient and day case admission compared to 30 September 2023 and a 12.7% reduction since 31 December 2022. Over the 18 months of sustained reduction, the treatment waiting list is down 14.4%.
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"Of particular note are the improvements in waiting times for trauma and orthopaedic surgery and general surgery. These are two of the specialties with the longest waits.

• over the past year there has been a 20.8% decrease in patients waiting for an Inpatient or Day Case Admission for General Surgery.

• and a 7.6% decrease in patients waiting for an Inpatient or Day Case Admission for Trauma & Orthopaedic surgery.

• these are also two of the specialties that have been reviewed by my Department through the Elective Care Management Team under the Elective Care Framework with implementation plans in place to drive efficiency and sustainability and to deliver benefits for patients.

• this serves to demonstrate the potential to reduce the number of people on waiting lists and improve how services are delivered through better ways of working, closing the capacity demand gap. The speed and scale with which such improvements can be made are critically impacted by the level of recurrent funding available.

"Today I have set out the funding requirements needed to tackle our waiting lists:

• minimum funding of approximately £75-80m per year to ensure those with cancer or time critical conditions can be treated as required.

• funds above the £75-80m required for cancer and time critical patients can be used to address our unacceptably long waiting lists – up to £135m per year

• recurrent sustainable financial investment in core capacity is also required to allow transformation of elective care services to help reduce demand, providing a more cost-effective way to reduce waits and to prevent the build-up of waits in the future.

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