Belfast Telegraph

100,000 waiting a year to see doctor in Northern Ireland, new figures show

The Health Service says it is in need of radical reform.
The Health Service says it is in need of radical reform.
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Almost 100,000 people had been waiting a year to have their first consultant-led out-patient appointment by the end of last year, new government statistics show.

And the figures show that 75% were waiting more than the target time of nine weeks for half of all patients to be seen.

The Health Service has said it is "simply unable" to keep pace with growing demands for care despite the best efforts of staff and a £30million cash injection last year.

"Fundamental transformation remains the only long-term answer to this problem," the department said.

In the budget for Northern Ireland, the health department is to received almost £6billion in funding, around £300m more than last year.

The figures also showed 88,605 people were waiting for an admission to hospital with 21,000 waiting over a year. Government targets say no one should wait over 52 weeks. for either inpatient or day case admission.

And almost 30,000 were waiting more than 26 weeks for diagnostic services.

Government targets state all urgent diagnostic tests should completed within two days of being undertaken.

Over 425,000 were done in the last quarter of 2018 with the 57,123 urgent diagnostic tests reported on within the two day target.

SDLP health spokesman Mark H Durkan described the latest targets as a "sickening indictment" of the ongoing political standoff.

The MLA for Foyle said: "The detailed statistics show that the majority of patients here have had to wait much longer than targets suggested they would.

“What has to happen for the DUP and Sinn Fein to recognise the real life impact on our constituents before they act to make this place work for everyone? Their inability to make it work for the health and well-being of our people here tells a story in itself.”

The UUP's Roy Beggs said patients were coming to harm and called on the Secretary of State to intervene.

“Our health service is in the midst of a wholly unprecedented crisis – both in terms of scale and severity," he said.

"There is no doubt whatsoever that the health of local patients is being adversely affected by the delays.

“On the day that the Northern Ireland budget has been published I see no signs whatsoever that anything is being done to get to grips with this crisis.

"Unless immediate action is taken to restore a local Health Minister, Direct Rule must be introduced now.”

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