Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Hospital waiting times blasted as 'abysmal' after shock report

Dr Grainne Doran
Dr Grainne Doran

By Lisa Smyth

Hospital waiting times here have been branded "abysmal" by a leading family doctor.

Dr Grainne Doran, chair of the Royal College of GPs in Northern Ireland, said it is unacceptable that it has become the norm to wait for years to be seen by a consultant.

She was responding to the findings of a report from the Nuffield Trust which has revealed that one in 16 people in Northern Ireland has spent a year on a hospital waiting list.

This is in sharp contrast to England, where only one in 48,524 people has waited longer than 12 months for a first outpatient appointment.

The report from the independent think tank said Northern Ireland's political deadlock is frustrating efforts to help sick people. Dr Doran said: "Radically transforming our health and social care system was never going to be easy, but it is essential.

"We all have a part to play - including political leaders, clinicians, service managers, civil servants and patients - and we must work together to address the inherent challenges facing health and social care.

"There is little to be proud of when we reflect on our abysmal patient waiting times.

"We simply cannot become complacent and accept that it is the norm to wait for years, in some specialties, for elective care appointments with a consultant."

Barry Macaulay, director of the Stroke Association, said stroke survivors and carers are reporting lengthy waits for services, which is hampering their recovery.

He said: "We believe it's vital that action is taken quickly to modernise and improve stroke services to ensure everyone has the support they need to rebuild their lives."

He added that official efforts to reshape stroke services in Northern Ireland must not face further delays as a result of the political deadlock.

Paula Bradshaw, the Alliance Party's health spokeswoman, said the report demonstrates clearly the need for reform of the health service but that this is being hampered by the absence of a functioning Assembly.

"Also concerning are the comments around waiting times," she continued. "There is a serious lack of ambition."

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