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Slew of missed targets heaps more pressure on Edwin Poots

By Rebecca Black

Hospital waiting times have soared with almost 40% of people waiting more than two months for outpatient appointments.

The alarming new figures come in a week when Health Minister Edwin Poots revealed that he will demand the Executive as a whole takes controversial decisions affecting his department.

The Department of Health revealed yesterday that despite its guidelines saying that 80% of people should wait no longer than nine weeks for a first outpatient appointment, by the end of June, 56,087 people (38.5%) had waited more than nine weeks. At the same time, 14,234 patients had waited longer than nine weeks for diagnostic services, an increase of 3,755 from the previous quarter.

Department of Health targets state no one should wait longer than nine weeks for these services.

There is also a slowdown in test results. All urgent diagnostic tests should be reported on within two days of the test being undertaken.

But during the quarter ending in June, 91.8% of urgent diagnostic tests in Northern Ireland were reported, verified and dispatched within two days.

The Department of Health said each trust managed to report on at least 88.7% of all urgent tests within two days, with the Northern Trust reporting on 97.8%.

Meanwhile, inpatient admission waiting times were also up.

Despite a department target that at least 80% of patients should wait no longer than 13 weeks for inpatient or day case treatment, and no patient should wait longer than 26 weeks, some 35% (50,330) had waited more than 12 weeks by the end of June, with 5,485 waiting more than 26 weeks.

SDLP MLA Fearghal McKinney blasted Mr Poots over the findings, and said the minister should appear before the health committee. “These waiting time figures speak for themselves and show that the minister has not got a grip on his department,” he claimed.

“The SDLP has consistently asked for measurement of the Transforming Your Care (TYC) plan that underpins present health policy and it has not been forthcoming.

“Meanwhile, we have top heavy administration, double paying for elective surgery as hospitals cancel appointments and then hand them to the private sector, and huge increases in payments for agency and temporary staff.

“These amount to many tens of millions of pounds and yet the minister says the only answer is to hold his hand out for more cash.

“We’re not doubting that there are financial and other pressures at the heart of the health service but we’re convinced that many of them are as a result of the minister’s own failed TYC plan.”

Mr McKinney added: “The SDLP wants to see the Health Minister and the Chief Medical Officer in front of the health committee as soon as possible to ask them what analysis they have done about the damage TYC is doing to our health service.”

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