NI waiting times ‘worst in Europe’, data expert finds

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Hospital waiting times in Northern Ireland are the worst in Europe, new research by a Belfast-based data scientist has shown.

The crisis in the Northern Ireland health service is well known and the waiting times for things like elective surgery and emergency care have grown considerably in recent years.

In August, the News Letter revealed that the number of people waiting more than a year for a consultant-led appointment in Northern Ireland was almost 100 times higher than in England, despite the vast population difference between the two UK regions.

But analysis by Peter Donaghy, a data scientist from Belfast writing for the Slugger O’Toole website, shows that waiting times in the Northern Ireland health service are not only the worst in the UK but worse than anywhere else in Europe — including less wealthy European nations such as Albania and Macedonia.

“The waiting times in Northern Ireland aren’t just atrocious in a UK context, but in an international context as well,” Mr Donaghy wrote.

Interestingly, his research also showed that long waiting times can be found across the border in the Republic of Ireland.

“Waiting times across the border are the worst of any nation state in Europe, and the situation in Northern Ireland is significantly worse,” he explained.

His work draws on figures published by health authorities in the UK, the Republic of Ireland and the 2018 EuroHealth Consumer Index.

Mr Donaghy, who also runs a number-crunching blog called the ‘Salmon of Data’, highlighted hospital inpatient figures, elective care figures and Accident and Emergency care statistics.

“My primary reaction after discovering this was one of shock and disbelief,” he told the News Letter.

“How can we all be under the one health system? I was absolutely shockedbecause I’m raising a family here in Northern Ireland myself and we use the health service just like anyone.

“If you live in England, or Scotland or Wales your quality of health service is going to be so different. We all pay the same taxes so how can it possibly be so much worse where people are waiting sometimes years for healthcare that you would receive in a few weeks if you lived across the water?”

The worst inpatient waiting times in Northern Ireland were found in the Western Trust area, according to the figures published by Mr Donaghy on the Slugger O’Toole website.