Northern Ireland hospital waiting lists still growing, new figures show

Hospital waiting lists in Northern Ireland, already the worst in the UK and amongst the worst in Europe, continue to worsen as the crisis facing the health service deepens.

By Niall Deeney
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 2:09 pm
A generic stock photo of an operation taking place at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.
A generic stock photo of an operation taking place at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.

The latest hospital waiting time statistics, published on Thursday morning, come after the Health Minister Robin Swann announced a new “surgical hub” for Northern Ireland — in Omagh, Co Tyrone.

The plan to create the new hub at the Omagh Hospitalwas part of a range of initiatives to to treat more patients on waiting lists.

The move was welcomed by the Royal College of Surgeons, whose Northern Ireland Director Professor Mark Taylor said: “We are delighted with Minister Swann’s decision which means that we now have two core surgical hubs in Northern Ireland — Omagh and Lagan Valley.

“This will give surgical teams more opportunities to operate and help patients in need.”

The latest waiting time figures from Mr Swann’s department, meanwhile, show that the number of people waiting for their first appointment with a consultant has grown by 23,765 since last year.

There were 358,807 patients waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment at the end of March, compared to 335,042 at the same time last year.

And the majority of patients continue to wait more than a full year just to see a consultant for the first time, the figures show.

Of the 358,807 patitents on the waiting list for their first consultant-led appointment, 186,645 had already been waiting at least 52 weeks.

When the figures were recorded at the end of December, the number waiting a year was roughly similar at 186,75 , and at March 31 last year it was 189,753.

For inpatient and day case procedures, a total of 122,820 patients were waiting to be admitted — around 10% more than the same time last year when the figure was 111,209.

The majority of these patients had also waited at least a year for treatment when the figures were recorded at the end of March — 69,831 from the 122,820 total.

The number of patients waiting a year is up on the equivalent figure from March 2021, when it was 68,309.

The new surgical hub in Omagh, meanwhile, will mean an extra 1,750 urology and general surgery patients — two specialities with some of the longest waiting times — will be treated per year once the service is fully up and running. Regional endoscopy sessions at the facility will also see another 3,000 patients, the department has said.