Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson, Roy Beggs MLA, has warned that the unprecedented crisis in local hospital waiting times is compromising the safety of patients right across Northern Ireland.
He was commenting after Department of Health statistics revealed that at the end of September 2018, a total of 283,497 local patients were waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, and that over 92,000 of those had been waiting for longer than 52 weeks.
Roy Beggs said:
“Formal targets for treatment across all patient types and specialties exist because it is medically accepted that the longer patients are forced to wait for treatment, the greater the harm they may ultimately come to.
“The number of people who are waiting far longer than even the maximum permitted time is at an unprecedented and terrifyingly high level.
“Never before in the history of Northern Ireland have so many people been waiting, and for such long periods time, just to see a hospital consultant. Our health service is in the midst of a wholly unprecedented crisis and yet instead of action being taken to resolve it, the local system is simply drifting from one worsening situation to the next.
“It has got the stage now where patients are suffering. Many of the 92,000 people who have been waiting for over a year will be in severe pain and discomfort which may well be affecting their own ability to work or even cope with basic day-to-day tasks.
“Now, with the scale of current pressures across all health and social care services, coupled with a record level of staff vacancies, I am really fearful that this winter will be even more challenging than last year.
“We urgently need a Government and an accountable Health Minister in place to drive immediate improvements in our health service. If this is not being provided by a local Executive, then the Secretary of State and our Westminster Government have a duty to citizens to step in and appoint one. Karen Bradley's fanciful policy of sitting on the fence and hoping for the DUP and Sinn Fein to come together to break the political stalemate isn’t worth patients coming to any more harm.”