Extra £30m allocated in bid to tackle hospital waiting lists
An additional £30 million has been diverted to tackling hospital waiting lists in Northern Ireland.
The announcement by Health Minister Simon Hamilton comes after the Stormont Executive released £40 million to address the problem late last year.
Earlier this year £2 million of extra funds was invested in reducing a backlog of appointments for autism assessments.
Mr Hamilton said there were provisional indications that inpatient and outpatient waiting times were starting to fall.
"It is unacceptable that people are waiting too long, and dealing with these waiting lists is one of my key priorities," he said.
"That is why for the early part of 2016/17 I am allocating a further £30m to continue tackling waiting lists. This additional funding will support up to 25,000 additional assessments and some 12,000 additional treatments across a wide range of specialities including orthopaedics, gastroenterology, neurology and ENT.
"Importantly it will see a £10m investment in diagnostic services, building capacity to support up to 50,000 additional tests to help meet increasing demands as well as supporting seven day services.
"Our trusts already provide 600,000 inpatient and day case admissions, and 1.5 million consultant-led outpatient attendances each year. But it is clear that it will take time and significant non recurrent and recurrent investment to bring waiting lists back to an acceptable level whilst simultaneously increasing capacity to meet increasing demand.
"My commitment today to an additional £30m is an important step to ensuring continued progress.
"This further £30m follows the Executive's earlier allocation of £40m. The combined £70m will ensure in the region of 150,000 extra assessments, tests and procedures. Also many children awaiting assessment for autism will benefit from the £2m I recently allocated for this specific area.
"Provisional figures for February 2016 show that those waiting more than 18 weeks for an outpatient appointment have fallen by 6% and those waiting longer than 26 weeks for an inpatient day case has fallen by 13%.
"It is clear that the investments we are directing towards waiting lists are making a difference. Slowly but surely we are getting to grips with waiting lists."