02/03/2006

Inpatient waiting lists reach ten-year low

Waiting lists for inpatients and day-patients have reached their lowest in ten years, Health Minister Shaun Woodward revealed today.

The number of people waiting over a year for appointments has almost dropped by 50% over the past quarter.

In July last year, the Health Minister announced the first step in a series of changes being made to address the issue of lengthy hospital waiting times for hospital patients in the province.

At the same time, a target was set to ensure that by the end of March this year, no one would be waiting more than 12 months for inpatient or daycase treatment.

Speaking earlier today, the Minister said: "I am very pleased that the figures released today show that the reforms I announced last July are transforming the health service to put patients first. The numbers waiting over 12 months are now at an all time low, down to 1,274, a drop of almost 50% compared to the previous quarter. Down almost 70% compared to the position when I made my announcement last year."

He added that the figures were very encouraging and were only possible due to the continuing hard work of clinicians, managers, administrators and other staff working in the HPSS.

The number of people waiting for a first outpatient appointment has also decreased over the last quarter by 6,753 to 180,238.

Commenting on this small reduction, Shaun Woodward said: "While I welcome the fact that the numbers waiting for a first outpatient appointment have fallen slightly in the last quarter, the number of patients waiting for an outpatient appointment are still unacceptably high.

"This reinforces the urgent need to introduce the measures I announced in January to reform outpatient services."

The Minister concluded that he would re-emphasise his commitment to introducing large-scale changes to the delivery of outpatient services to ensure that, by March 2008, no-one waits longer than 13 weeks for an outpatient appointment following referral by their GP.

(EF/SP)

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