Wait times may soar, warns Reilly
Health Minister James Reilly has admitted hospital waiting lists could soar as plans to eradicate them are implemented.
Dr Reilly has revealed his ambitious plan to cut chronic delays for surgery within three years through a Special Delivery Unit (SDU), as promised under the Programme for Government.
But the minister warned that with no immediate solution it could take 18 months to deliver.
"It's not our intention that waiting lists will rise but they could be in the short term," he said.
"But in the long term, definitely not."
The minister announced that Dr Martin Connor - whom he described as an international expert who cut waiting lists in Northern Ireland - was being given six months to set up the unit.
It will initially concentrate on reducing numbers on trolleys in emergency departments over the winter months, before targeting in-patient waiting lists. Out-patients times and access to diagnostics will then be considered.
Dr Connor vowed to put the patient at the heart of his plans, by September.
He stressed improvement can be made in waiting lists by working differently.
"It's not an easy ask but it's not an impossible ask," he added.