Childhoods 'stolen' as more children wait over four years on healthcare
MORE than 600 children have been waiting over four years for consultant-led hospital treatment or procedures, new figures reveal.
Other alarming statistics show demand for child health psychology services has soared by 185 per cent in the past year.
The scale of the problem in both hospital and community settings is revealed in an investigation into paediatric waiting lists by the north's children's commissioner Koulla Yiasouma.
She said many children on waiting lists "can be experiencing pain and discomfort, their education disrupted, their ability to forge childhood friendships, thrive and develop taken from them while they wait for healthcare".
Figures show 53 per cent of the approximate 10,000 children waiting for consultant-led hospital treatment or procedures have now been waiting over one year with 611 children waiting over four years.
Ms Yiasouma also said the "fact that we also have an annual increase of 184 per cent from 510 children to 1,449 children waiting over four years for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment is simply unacceptable".
Other figures reveal almost 10,000 children with ear, nose and throat conditions are waiting for a consultant-led outpatient appointment and over 4,000 waiting for a procedure or surgery.
The review also reveals a 28 per cent increase - an additional 7,460 children - waiting for an appointment with one of the community child health services between April 2021 to April 2022, with over 34,000 children now waiting.
Within these services, demand from child health psychology has risen from 169 to 482, speech and language is up 87 per cent from 2,444 to 4,574, while autism assessment demand increased by 33 per cent from 5,155 to 6,845.
Demand for child and adolescent mental health services is up by 52 per cent with a 554 per cent increase from 35 to 229 children waiting over six months.
Ms Yiasouma highlighted some positive news which reveals an overall decrease by 2,405 in the numbers of children with red flag or urgent referrals waiting to be seen.
"Children should not be left waiting months or years in a queue to access services, they have a right to receive high quality healthcare without unnecessary delay, they deserve to experience childhood without struggling to manage health conditions," added Ms Yiasouma.