Number of available beds in Northern Ireland hospitals falling

Hospitals cancelled 155,084 appointments last year

PATIENTS are being discharged from hospital more quickly although new statistics show the number of available beds in Northern Ireland hospitals are falling.

The number of `inpatient' and `day case' admissions to hospitals increased by 1.5 per cent to 615,271 between 2012/3 and 2016/17, according to official Department of Health figures.

However, in the same period, the average number of available beds fell by 5.9 per cent to just 5,910.

The greatest decrease between 2015/16 and 2016/17 (6.2 per cent) in average available beds has been in mental health - falling by 35 beds in a single year.

Meanwhile, between 2012/13 and 2016/17, the average length of stay in hospitals has shown an overall decrease from 6.4 days to six days.

In February, figures suggested around 40,000 people were waiting more that 52 weeks for a first outpatient appointment and around 8,000 were waiting longer than a year for day care inpatient treatment.

The number of attendances to consultant-led outpatient services fell by 11,849 in a single year to 1,507,580 in 2016/17.

Just a third of this number were patients being seen for the first time, with the most being "review attendances".

Patients missed 132,288 appointments during 2016/17 and cancelled a further 189,374. Hospitals cancelled 155,084 appointments.

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