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Hospital waiting lists up by 2,500% ... and that’s before the cuts

By Victoria McMahon

The number of people having to wait more than nine weeks for a hospital appointment in Northern Ireland has soared —with grim warnings that the situation is set to get much worse.

Shock statistics released by the Department of Health|revealed that the number of people waiting for a first|appointment rose from just 1,100 in June 2009 to almost 30,000 this year — a staggering rise of more than 2,500%.

The latest figures mean the department’s target that no patients should have to wait more than nine weeks to get their first outpatient appointment to see a specialist now lie in tatters. More than one in four of all patients are now not being seen within the target time.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has personally apologised to patients and blamed the rise on continual budget cuts in his department. He also said the situation would get worse with further spending reductions.

But some health figures have blamed poor management within the NHS for the jump and have claimed that retiring doctors are not being replaced.

Health Committee chair Jim Wells said it was wrong to blame budget cuts solely for the waiting list figures.

“It is wrong to blame the cuts as such, it is down to|management why waiting lists are spiralling out of control.

“What makes it so unfortunate is such an effort was put into bringing them down and considerable progress had been made. I want to know how such a dramatic turnaround in the wrong direction has happened. To have a jump to 30,000|people you are talking about the size of Ballymena.”

He added: “This is the thin edge of the wedge. We are|waiting for the mother of all budgets in October from George Osborne and I expect the worst is yet to come.

GP Dr Kieran Deeny,|Independent MLA for West|Tyrone, said: “These statistics are shocking. I really think this is a health system in crisis.

“Consultants are not being replaced on retirement or when they move jobs.”

Waiting list figures

First outpatient appointment — ie, to see a consultant or specialist:

Total waiting June 2009 — 73,987. Total waiting June 2010 — 110,220. UP — 50%

People waiting over nine weeks for first outpatient appointment:

June 2009 — 1,114. June 2010 — 29,149. UP — 2,516%

People waiting over nine weeks for first appointment to trauma and orthopaedics:

June 2010 — 7,523. UP 25% on last year

People waiting over 26 weeks for first appointment at the Belfast Trust — 1,280 compared to just one person in each of the South Eastern Trust and Southern Trust waiting for over 26 weeks.

Diagnostic services (people waiting to be diagnosed). Health Department target — by March 31, 2011, no patient should have to wait any longer than nine weeks:

Total waiting March 2010 - 48,371. Total waiting June 2010 — 59,575. UP 23% in three months

People waiting between nine and 13 weeks to be diagnosed:

March 2010 — 6,350. June 2010 —8,037. UP 26.5% in three months

Total number of people waiting to be admitted to hospital:

Total waiting June 2009 — 32,390. Total waiting June 2010 — 40,875. UP 26%

Ordinary admissions and day cases: Target — by March 31, 2011, no-one should be waiting longer than 36 weeks

Number waiting more than 36 weeks by June 2010 — 142

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