Belfast Telegraph

DUP and SF criticised as waiting list numbers at NI hospitals soar

By Allan Preston

Waiting times in Northern Ireland hospitals are spiralling out of control with no Executive in place, MLAs have warned.

The Department of Health figures for the quarter ending June 30 revealed sharp increases in waiting times for first consultant-led outpatient appointments, inpatient and day case admissions, as well as diagnostic appointments.

Almost twice as many patients (64,074) waited more than a year for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, compared to the same time period last year (30,170).

Ministerial targets state that no patients should have to wait this long.

Two-thirds of patients (189,289) also waited more than nine weeks, 43,000 more than in the same time last year.

For inpatient and day case admissions, 11,000 patients waited over a year, almost 4,500 more than last year.

Targets state no patients should wait this long.

Furthermore, 43,732 of patients waited more than 13 weeks for either an inpatient or day case admission, 3,695 more than last year.

In diagnostic services, two-fifths of patients (47,624), waited more than nine weeks, over 14,000 more than in the same time last year.

For diagnostic tests, the targets say no patient should have to wait more than two days for the report turnaround.

Across Northern Ireland as a whole, the rate was 87.7% for the last quarter.

A total of 403,788 tests were reported on and dispatched over the last quarter, 3,238 less than the same period last year.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw accused the DUP and Sinn Fein of "shirking their responsibilities" and demanded the Executive was restored immediately.

"Implementation of the recommendations of Bengoa (a major review of healthcare in Northern Ireland) is urgently required as they are specifically designed to reform the broken system which leads to far too many people on waiting lists," she said.

SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan called the situation a "crises" and questioned a previous funding commitment by the DUP and Sinn Fein.

UUP MLA Roy Beggs said the number of people waiting far longer than was medically safe had risen to "an unprecedented and terrifying level."

He also accused Sinn Fein of putting more value on an Irish Language Act than the welfare of patients.

Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan said his party colleague and former Health Minister Michelle O'Neill had previously set out a clear response to the Bengoa report which included an initial investment to tackle waiting times.

"The DUP should end their opposition to rights and equality so that we can get local ministers back in place and they should immediately withdraw their support for this austerity-driven Tory Government," he said.

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