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More than 12,000 people in Northern Ireland waiting for routine operations or to see a consultant for the first time

There are currently more than 12,000 people in Northern Ireland waiting for routine operations or to see a consultant for the first time, new figures have revealed
Marie Louise McConville

THERE are currently more than 12,000 people in Northern Ireland waiting for routine operations or to see a consultant for the first time, new figures have revealed.

Health statistics dating back five years show the number of people waiting in the north is considerably higher than in the rest of the UK.

While none of the regions were found to have performed well in relation to Emergency Medicine, Northern Ireland was found to have performed particularly poorly - having not hit its cancer or emergency department (ED) targets since before 2008.

Targets such as 95 per cent of patients in Emergency Departments being seen within four hours have never been met.

There were also concerns around cancer-related performance as it was found that a target set by the Department of Health that 95 per cent of patients should have their treatment within 62 days had been breached for eight years.

In addition in 2015, in the Department of Health said 70 per cent of people should receive a routine operation within 13 weeks but this was later reduced to 50 per cent following failures to reach this.

However, it was found that the target has continued to be breached on occasions across all five health trusts.

Speaking to the BBC, who collated the statistics, Michael Bloomfield, deputy chief executive of the Health and Social Care Board, said more funding was needed.

"There are around 35,000 more surgical procedures required than the health service currently has capacity for," he said.

"Without the additional funding that is required to see those patients or have them treated in different ways it is regrettably inevitable that waiting times will increase to the position they are now in.

"There is widespread acceptance that this is unacceptable and the focus needs to be on addressing that position".

Meanwhile, the Southern Health & Social Care Trust's Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory at Craigavon Area Hospital has been ranked as top in Northern Ireland for data quality, and the fourth out of the 120 UK centres, which undertake coronary stenting.

A national annual assessment, undertaken on behalf of the British Cardiovascular Intervention Society (BCIS), rated Craigavon as "excellent".

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