Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson, Roy Beggs MLA, has warned that ‘frightening’ is the only word that can be used to describe the scale at which the hospital waiting times crisis across Northern Ireland is deteriorating.
Roy Beggs said:
“It’s outrageous that out of a population of just 1.8m people, as of the end of June – the time of year when hospitals are usually quietest, so the numbers waiting should be at the lowest - there were over 275,000 patients waiting for a first appointment.
“What makes it even more concerning is that 88,598 people had been waiting longer than a year. That’s not even waiting a year for treatment to commence; that was waiting a year to meet a consultant in order to even see what the best course of treatment would be.
“During the summer we even had Health Trusts asking patients not to attend A&E units unless absolutely necessary due to excessive waiting times. We are now witnessing an all year round crisis.
“If an animal suffered in pain for more than a year before accessing a vet for treatment, allegations of cruelty would rightly be made. Yet by some twisted logic, it’s somehow acceptable to leave people – many in pain and under huge mental anxiety – for over a year suffering and often only barely coping thanks to increasing reliance on pain medication.
“The problem isn’t getting better, it’s getting worse. Every month it’s deteriorating and with absolutely nothing being done by the Health Department to resolve it, the simple reality is that next month the figures will be worse and even more people will have been waiting even longer.
“The Health Service across Northern Ireland is on the brink of seizing up and people are coming to harm because they are being forced to wait for so long.
“I dread to think what this winter will bring and yet this week all I’ve seen is Sinn Fein bemoan the lack of an Act for a language most of them don’t even understand and the DUP engaging in another political stunt on the steps of Stormont. They both need to get a grip and realise what is going on around them. Politics is meant to be about doing what is best for the community and the art of the possible, not holding the community to ransom over a pet project.
“We urgently need a Health Minister in place to make decisions and if that’s just not possible Direct Rule Ministers should be appointed. I would urge the Secretary of State to end the current drift.”