Patients facing longer hospital waits as lists rise by 30% in a year
Tens of thousands of patients across Northern Ireland are facing longer waits for a first outpatient appointment – significantly more than this time last year, new figures have revealed.
Latest statistics show waiting lists have grown by almost 30% in a year with 127,095 people waiting at the end of March for a first appointment to see consultants or for tests.
This is 12,397 more than three months previously, at the end of December. It also signalled a massive rise of 27,321 cases when compared to March 2013.
Meanwhile, 19,173 were waiting more than 15 weeks – a rise of 4,231 four months previously– in what is a breach of ministerial targets. The latest waiting times have led to the British Medical Association issuing a stark warning that the Transforming Your Care strategy – the blueprint to overhaul the health service – is not being "planned, managed or resourced".
And the Patient and Client Council has said people are being left "angry and frustrated" at the waits, adding there are major concerns that delays in diagnosis leads to further deterioration in a condition which may have been avoided with more prompt treatment.
Current government targets state that at least 80% of patients should wait no longer than nine weeks for a first outpatient appointment with no one waiting longer than 15 weeks.
Chairman of the BMA in Northern Ireland, Dr Paul Darragh, said the organisation had repeatedly issued warnings around the waiting times situation facing patients.
Maeve Hully, chief executive from the Patient and Client Council, said: "The reasons why waiting times are increasing need to be addressed urgently."
Health Minister Edwin Poots said there was "no doubt" that acute hospital services continue to face considerable demand.
Mr Poots said he set challenging targets for the Health and Social Care Board.
"I look to the HSC board to work with the HSC trusts to deliver on these targets," he said.
The number of patients waiting for a first outpatient appointment at end of March 2014 – 127,095.
10.8% (12,397) more than at end of December 2013
27.4% (27,321) more than at end of March 2013
31.3% (39,768) waiting more than nine weeks
19.8% waiting more than nine weeks at end of March 2013
19,173 waiting more than 15 weeks at end of March 2014
14,942 waiting more than 15 weeks at end of December 2013
129,888 attended first outpatient appointment in Northern Ireland during the quarter January to March 2014