More than 100,000 patients wait more than a year for hospital treatment in NI
MORE than 100,000 patients are being forced to wait more than a year for hospital treatment in Northern Ireland, according to new statistics.
Department of Health figures reveal 21,477 patients are waiting more than 12 months for inpatient treatment - an increase of almost 43.4 per cent compared to December 2017.
A further 94,953 are now waiting more than a year for an outpatient appointment. Government targets state no patients should be waiting longer than 52 weeks.
A total of 281,705 patients were waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment at the end of December 2018, compared with 271,553 a year previous.
Mark Taylor from the Royal College of Surgeons described the statistics as "distressing".
"Our health services need the resources to close the gap between growing demand and the capacity of the system to meet that demand. This requires sustained and guaranteed investment over a number of years," he said.
"It also means radical transformation of the way we deliver services which will require two elements - sustained funding push to reduce waiting times and eradicate the backlog of people waiting to stabilise the current situation and a longer-term strategy to tackle the capacity gap and prevent future backlogs.
"No-one should underestimate the scale of these challenges."
He added that health and social care staff were working hard to ensure waiting lists did not fall any further behind.
"But without political support and the required funding to bring about the changes needed, it will be very difficult to get our health service back on an even footing," he said.
The British Medical Association (BMA), the professional body and trade union for doctors, also warned that "we cannot continue like this".
Dr Anne Carson from the BMA said it was a "a totally unacceptable service for our patients".
"If we don't move swiftly it is hard to see how this situation will be improved," she said.
"We have had extensive reviews, reports and recommendations made on what we need to do to have the world class health and care system people here want and deserve.
"We need to be able to implement those and our current political situation is a barrier to that progress."