Belfast Telegraph

Hospital waiting list numbers rise

The number of patients waiting for hospital appointments has rocketed by 27% over three months this year, figures have shown.

Health minister Michael McGimpsey blamed budget cuts for the extra 23,719 people left in the queue in June; 142 people were waiting more than nine months.

A total of 110,220 were waiting for their first outpatient appointment at the end of June, up 23,719 on March's total and up 36,233 (49%) on the same time last year.

The UUP's Mr McGimpsey said: "I want to apologise to those patients who will have to wait longer for surgery and outpatient appointments and assure the public that every effort is being made to treat people as quickly as possible.

"I also want to thank staff for their hard work and efforts in delivering a high-quality service to patients despite facing increasing demand and with limited resources.

"These rises are not, however, unexpected. I have been warning about this scenario for many months. It is a direct result of my budget being repeatedly cut.

"If my budget is to be further cut then there will be more rises because we simply cannot meet the demand for services without the funding to match it."

Stormont health committee chairman Jim Wells said he was disappointed at the deteriorating situation this spring.

He said: "This constant mantra about the cuts from the minister is not true for this particular period. What we need to do is to learn from those who have managed to deliver a fairly good track record on waiting lists.

"It is worrying that in advance of the major reductions in funding, already we are seeing considerable strain on the waiting lists."

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