Ulster Unionist MLA Michael McGimpsey has expressed his shock after it was revealed that more than 20% of people in Northern Ireland are now on a hospital waiting list. The latest publication of waiting list statistics show that 373,000 people are currently waiting for a first outpatient appointment, a diagnostic test or inpatient treatment at hospitals in Northern Ireland.
The South Belfast MLA, who also sits on the Assembly Health Committee, said:
“There is an undeniable crisis in our health service. Core services such as cancer diagnostics and treatments are waning, general surgery and pain management are reporting worsening service provision, staff morale is collapsing and now it has been demonstrated once again that our hospital waiting lists are in absolute turmoil.
“Of the 373,000 people currently waiting, 212,000 of these are people who are waiting for their first outpatient appointment. These are 212,000 people who have been referred to a consultant or other specialists by their GP. The fact that the list has ballooned up from the 145,000 people waiting the same time last year is indicative of the scale of the crisis.
“The gravity of situation is even more significant when one considers how long people have been waiting. There is an official Government target that nobody should have to wait more than 18 weeks for a first outpatient appointment yet the latest figures show that 86,000 people, or 40%, have been waiting longer than this. These people often are waiting in pain, and no doubt such excessive delays in getting an appointment are causing huge emotional distress and worry.
“In addition in a leaked document the Health and Social Care Board has previously warned that ‘increased waiting times for assessment may result in delayed diagnosis of a serious or life-threatening condition with reduced likelihood of a successful outcome’, so I have no doubt these excessive delays are compromising the quality and safety of patient care.
“As every week and month passes the crisis in our NHS is becoming more obvious. I can see it through an increase with people coming to my office seeking help and I can hear it when I engage with medical staff working in our hospitals and in the community. Unfortunately however neither the latest Minister nor his senior officials have shown any determination to resolve any of the major problems.”