Waiting list for surgery jumps by 43% in one year
The number of people waiting longer than a year for an operation in a Northern Ireland hospital has rocketed by 43% in just 12 months.
The Department of Health has released its quarterly waiting list bulletin which has revealed the shocking scale of the crisis facing the NHS in Northern Ireland.
Despite a £30m cash boost last year to help address the problem, almost 95,000 people had been waiting for longer than a year for a first outpatient appointment at the end of December 2018 - an increase of 18% in 12 months. A further 21,477 people had been waiting more than 12 months for inpatient or day care treatment.
This was up from just under 15,000 at the end of December last year.
The statistics are even more startling in light of the £30m funding, which resulted in an additional 79,000 procedures being carried out.
Without drastic action, such as offering specialist services at fewer locations, the situation is likely to deteriorate even further in light of the budget announced yesterday.
The figures have been released just days after the Belfast Telegraph revealed children are waiting four years for an outpatient appointment and some patients face 10-year waits for surgery.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has branded the situation "unacceptable" and warned Northern Ireland needs an additional 1,000 hospital doctors by 2033 to deliver a safe service.
Dr Anne Carson, chair of the BMA's Northern Ireland Consultants Committee, said: "Every time the waiting list figures come out it is the same story: the number of patients waiting for first appointments and for treatment or further diagnostics increases.
"This is a totally unacceptable service for our patients.
"We cannot continue like this; if we don't move swiftly it is hard to see how this situation will be improved.
"Staff right across healthcare in Northern Ireland are working harder than ever, but without some of the major changes outlined in successive reports, nothing will change."
Dr Carson warned of a significant challenge in achieving this due to opportunities for doctors elsewhere in the UK and abroad.
"We need to have more flexible working opportunities for doctors, better training and career development opportunities and pay parity with our colleagues in the rest of the UK," she said.
Meanwhile, the Royal College of Surgeons has highlighted the massive disparity in waiting times for treatment here compared to England.
While more than 100,000 people in Northern Ireland were waiting longer than a year for treatment at the end of last year, only 2,237 patients had faced such a wait in England.
It also highlighted the fact that the 52-week Government target has not been completely achieved in more than 12 years.
A spokeswoman from the Department of Health said the NHS is "unable to keep pace with growing demands for treatment, despite the best efforts of staff".
She said fundamental transformation remains the only long-term answer to the situation.
"While transformation is under way, sustained investment is also required to clear the backlog of patients waiting for treatment," she added.
people in Northern Ireland have been waiting more than a year for a first outpatient appointment