The Ulster Unionist Party has said the revelation that 32,000 people were waiting longer than a year for their first outpatient appointment further compounds the sheer record of failure of the outgoing DUP/Sinn Fein Executive and demonstrates a crisis which is unprecedented in the history of the local NHS.
South Belfast Assembly Candidate Rodney McCune said:
“The reason targets exist is because it is very widely accepted that the longer patients are forced to wait for diagnosis or treatment the greater harm they may ultimately come to.
“The official government target is that nobody at all should have to wait longer than 18 weeks for their first appointment with a consultant.
“Yet despite this, the number of outpatients now having to wait longer than the maximum permitted time as set by the Department of Health has increased by 700% under the last five years of DUP Health Ministers.
“In addition, through figures recently provided to the Ulster Unionist Party, it was revealed that there were over 32,000 people waiting longer that 52 weeks for a first appointment with a hospital consultant. Of those, over 8,700 were waiting longer than a shocking 78 weeks, or 18 months.
“Many of these people have been waiting on essential surgery to relieve crippling pain, whilst others have been anxiously awaiting a further test or diagnosis.
“The crisis facing our local NHS is unprecedented and this has contributed to the fact that the numbers of people waiting for hospital treatment, as well as the lengths of time they are being forced to wait, is now greater than any year in recent history. It is a shocking statistic that almost 400,000 people, over a fifth of our entire population, are now on a hospital waiting list.
“The cruel reality is it will take much more than a 5 point plan, or last-minute pre-election stunts, to resolve the crisis facing our NHS. The first step has to be getting a new Minister who actually recognises the severity of the current crisis and is prepared to take the actions necessary to resolve it.”