Belfast Telegraph

54,000 too long on NHS waiting list

More than 54,000 people in Northern Ireland were waiting more than nine weeks for their first outpatient appointment, it has been revealed.

More than 37,000 were on the list for at least 13 weeks at the end of December, according to a report from the Department of Health.

Stormont Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said that significant additional funding of £50 million to expand health service capacity in the last two years will help reduce waiting lists.

But the minister warned it will take a considerable amount of time to recruit the number of additional clinical staff needed and called for extra money to boost the health service.

The total number of people waiting for a first outpatient appointment at the end of December was 124,589. This represented a decrease of 4,246 on the number waiting at the end of September 2010 and an increase of 42,019 on the number waiting at the same time last year.

At the end of December, there were 54,472 patients waiting more than nine weeks for a first outpatient appointment, of whom 37,655 were waiting more than 13 weeks.

The 2010/11 ministerial target for outpatient waiting times stipulates that by March 31 no patient should wait longer than nine weeks for their first outpatient appointment.

Mr McGimpsey has warned of the risks for patient care if he does not get additional money in the forthcoming Budget. He has repeatedly said he needs an extra £200 million.

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