Belfast Telegraph

Dobson slams 'scandalous' waiting lists at hospitals

By David Young

Waiting list times in Northern Ireland are "out of control", according to an opposition MLA.

Official figures released yesterday show that by March 31 more than 100,000 patients had been waiting for over 18 weeks for a first inpatient appointment.

Almost 30,000 people had to wait more than nine weeks for diagnostic tests.

And more than 17,000 patients - one in four - had been waiting for more than six months to go into hospital for treatment.

The target figure is zero for all three measures. However, there was a drop in the total number on the list - from 400,000 in November to almost 376,400.

Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson (UUP) said: "Tackling the waiting time crisis in our Health Service must be the number one priority for the new Executive and we will be watching carefully to see what actions they plan to take," she said.

"Waiting times across services have been out of control for many months now, but it is utterly scandalous that patients are being forced to wait longer and longer - running into years - for essential appointments."

SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan described the Department of Health's failure to meet the waiting list targets as "frankly unacceptable". "Those receiving care in our hospitals and in our communities deserve better than this," he said.

"The statistics released by the Department of Health reveal a crisis in acute medical care. Waiting list targets, that are already modest to begin with, are being missed by significant margins, creating undue stress on patients, staff and clinicians."

"The statistics are shocking but each one of those numbers represents a person and a family whose lives have been thrown into chaos. That is not what our health service should be about."

New Health Minister Michelle O'Neill defended her Department's performance, saying: "The latest statistics published today show that, as expected, real progress was made in the last quarter of the year in securing significant reductions in the length of time people are waiting to be assessed and treated."

Belfast Telegraph


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