Health Minister's £30m injection to cut hospital waiting lists
Health Minister Simon Hamilton has announced a £30m cash injection to address the waiting list crisis gripping Northern Ireland's hospitals.
Around 80,000 people could benefit from the extra funding.
It will support up to 25,000 additional assessments and 12,000 extra treatments, and cover a range of specialities including orthopaedics, neurology and gastroenterology.
Last month, the Belfast Telegraph reported that hospital queues were at their longest for 15 years.
More than one in five of Northern Ireland's population is on a form of outpatient waiting list. Latest official figures show a rise of nearly 37% in 12 months.
In December 2014, 171,866 people faced a delay; 12 months later it reached 236,365 people.
Mr Hamilton said the extra £30m would go directly to cut waiting lists. It follows a £40m investment at the end of 2015 and an extra £2m announced to cut autism waiting times.
Mr Hamilton said provisional waiting list times for February 2016 show the number of people waiting for inpatient and outpatient appointments is falling.
The minister said: "It is unacceptable that people are waiting too long, and dealing with these waiting lists is one of my key priorities. That is why I am allocating a further £30m to continue tackling waiting lists.
"This funding will support up to 25,000 additional assessments and some 12,000 additional treatments across specialities including orthopaedics, gastroenterology, neurology and ENT."
It includes a £10m investment in diagnostic services, building capacity to support up to 50,000 additional tests, as well as supporting seven-day services.