Northern Ireland news

Efforts to tackle spiralling wait lists in NI set for £31.5m funding boost

Hospital waiting lists in Northern Ireland are at a record high with more than 330,000 patients facing delays for assessments and treatment
David Young, PA

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

It is understood the extra funds for elective care will be allocated as part of the first review of the Executive’s spending plans for the current financial year.

The first three monthly in-year redistribution of funds between Stormont departments is also due to divert £10.7 million to the Department of Health to cope with pharmaceutical pressures linked to Brexit.

Northern Ireland has the worst waiting list times in the UK. 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 across the region, as patients attempt to seek treatment via A&Es.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy is due to present details of his proposed June monitoring round re-allocations at Thursday’s meeting of the powersharing administration.

PA Media understands that the Department of Health is in line for almost £55 million in additional resource spending and £11.5 million for capital projects

Other big ticket reallocations will see £19 million 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 £36 million to provide additional support for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN).

At Thursday’s Executive meeting, ministers are 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 region’s court.

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 region in the “near future”.

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