Measures to tackle waiting lists as Swann warns of funding pressures

The health service in Northern Ireland is facing significant funding pressures in the second half of the financial year, Robin Swann has warned.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 8:19 am

The health minister made the comments as he set out a range of initiatives to to treat more patients on waiting lists, including naming Omagh Hospital as Northern Ireland’s second regional day procedure centre.

The minister said that despite ongoing budgetary uncertainty, he has allocated £46 million for additional waiting-list activity for the first six months of 2022/23.

Northern Ireland currently has the longest hospital waiting lists in the UK.

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Health Minister Robin Swann

A planned multi-year budget which would have prioritised spending in health has not been progressed due to the collapse of the power-sharing institutions at Stormont.

The additional funding announced by the minister involves creating additional in-house health service capacity as well as paying independent sector providers to assess and treat patients who are on waiting lists.

Mr Swann also announced additional recurrent investment of over £16m per year on boosting in-house health service capacity to treat patients.

In a written statement to the Assembly, Mr Swann said his funding allocations are “not without risk” in the absence of a budget.

He said: “I do however have to warn Members that funding pressures in health may be significant by the second half of 2022/23.

“Indeed, the financial situation will undoubtedly be constrained whatever the final budget settlement. We will not be able to do everything we want.”

He added: “As well as ongoing financial pressures, we are also facing rising energy prices and the need to ensure our staff are appropriately paid.

“As time moves on, decisions on allocations will become increasingly difficult.

“The ability to plan strategically for the future continues to be hugely limited by the lack of a financial settlement.

“Nevertheless, as long as I am health minister I will continue to put patients at the heart of my decision making and continue to do the best I can to deliver for them with the resources I have available.”

Mr Swann continued: “The realistic outlook for our overall waiting times position is a period of slowing growth before ultimately a sustained reversal as the decisions already taken on staffing and other investments in capacity begin to come to fruition.

“Alongside the investment in buying additional capacity, we need to strengthen in house capacity on a major scale – to meet current and future needs.”

Some of the measures revealed by the health minister include:

l Omagh Hospital day procedure centre will see seven regional theatre lists per week across urology and general surgery;

l The regional endoscopy extension at Omagh hospital will further be supported with 20 extra sessions at Lagan Valley Hospital;

l Lagan Valley Hospital day procedure centre is increasing activity to deliver over 900 theatre lists per year with over 5,000 patients treated across ENT, urology, hernias and gynaecology;

l Musgrave Park Hospital Duke of Connaught is an orthopaedic day procedure centre which will allow for almost 1,200 additional procedures per year;

l Regional urology stone services at Craigavon Area Hospital will see an increase in the number of sessions for extra corporeal shockwave lithotripsy and increase in productivity per session.