Healthcare news

More than £30m diverted to tackle spiralling waiting lists

Hospital waiting lists in Northern Ireland are at a record high
Rebecca Black and David Young, PA

An additional £31.5 million is set to be diverted to efforts to tackle Northern Ireland’s spiralling waiting lists.

The Department of Health will get the largest reallocation of funds as part of the first review of the Executive’s spending plans for the current financial year.

Health is to receive £66m in total in the June Monitoring Round, which also includes £10.7m to cope with pharmaceutical pressures linked to Brexit.

Northern Ireland has worse waiting list times than Britain. There are currently more than 335,000 waiting on a first consultant-led appointment, with some facing waits of up to seven years for treatment.

The waiting lists have led to increased pressures on emergency departments, as patients attempt to seek treatment via A&Es.

Stormont Finance Minister Conor Murphy announced the extra funding today following the approval of the Executive, hours after the latest statistics revealed that all targets for cancer waiting times were missed during the first quarter of 2021.

Other big ticket reallocations will see £19m distributed to the Executive Office to pay for first year costs of the long-delayed scheme for paying compensation to injured victims of the Troubles.

The Department of Education is also in line for almost £36m to provide additional support for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN).

Mr Murphy said the Executive is “committed to ensuring our health service has the funding it needs as it continues to face ongoing pressure and challenges as a result of the pandemic”.

“Today’s allocation of £66m for health includes over £30m to tackle elective care waiting lists,” he said.

“I am allocating £57m for education which includes over £35m of additional support for children with Special Educational Needs.

“£19m is being provided for the Victims Payment Scheme. This scheme will provide vital support to those who suffered physical or physiological injury as a result of the conflict.

“We will continue to discuss long-term funding for the Victims’ Pension Scheme with the Treasury.”

Mr Murphy added: “I am also allocating over £39m to the Department for Communities which includes funding for urban renewal programmes as well as £8m for property adaptations for tenants living with disabilities and £8m to fund a shared ownership pilot scheme for over-55s.”

At today’s Executive meeting, ministers were also expected to give the green light for a series of justice reforms, including several related to how sex offence cases are handled by the courts.

Executive approval for Justice Minister Naomi Long’s Justice (Sex Offences and Trafficking Victims) Bill should enable her to start the process of bringing the legislation through the Assembly before the summer recess.

The weekly briefing paper from health officials on the Covid-19 pandemic will inform ministers that the R rate of the virus currently is “definitely” above 1, within a range of between 1.2 to 1.5

The paper notes that hospital admissions, ICU occupancy and deaths remain at a “very low level” in the region and health experts do not anticipate any significant increase for at least one to two weeks.

The document also confirms that the Delta variant of Covid-19 now accounts for 50% of all cases in Northern Ireland and is likely to become the dominant variant in the north in the “near future”.

Read more: Robin Swann publishes recovery plan for cancer services after Covid

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Healthcare news