Ulster Unionist Party health spokesman Roy Beggs Jnr has expressed his disappointment that Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots is resisting introducing an appointment to treatment waiting time measurement- which would give a direct comparison with other parts of the UK NHS.
Mr Beggs commented:
“To know how well the health service in Northern Ireland is doing, we need to be able to benchmark performance. In Great Britain Referral to Treatment (RTT) is measured and published as a matter of routine. I have asked the Minister, through a written Assembly question, when such a common measurement tool will be introduced locally, so that we could accurately compare our performance with the rest of the UK. I am very disappointed with Minister Poots’ lacklustre response of “My Department has no plans at this time to measure waiting time for elective care on the basis of time from referral to treatment “
The East Antrim MLA has been highlighting this anomaly on the Stormont Health committee Committee for months.[i]
Mr Beggs has struggled to obtain comparable figures on hip replacement waiting times from initial GP referral to actual surgical treatment:
“In the case of waiting times for patients needing a hip replacement it is easy to find average waiting times in GB. In Carlisle for example the average time from referral by GP to hospital treatment for is 18 weeks. It is the same for nearby Penrith hospital.[ii]
“We simply cannot, under the current system compare on a like for like basis, waiting times for hip replacements at Musgrave Park Hospital with an equivalent hospital in GB. My colleague Robin Swann has also tried to obtain the local figures for hip replacement waiting times, but has been told; “The Department does not collect the current waiting time for patients seen by a consultant surgeon following an initial assessment.”[iii]
“It is simply unacceptable that modern British standards are not being used to measure actual time to treatment in Northern Ireland. If we are not being provided with routine NHS statistics- available in the rest of the UK- the suspicion will grow that the Minister has something to hide.”
[i] HSSPS, Official Report, Hansard, Appointments Cancelled by Hospitals: Health and Social Care Board/Health and Social Care Trusts Briefing, 6 February 2013, page 19.
Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Official Report (Hansard), Health and Social Care (Commissioning Plan) Direction (Northern Ireland) 2014: DHSSPS Briefing, 23 October, 2013, page 10