Radical plans for new day surgery hubs across Northern Ireland have been announced by health chiefs in a bid to cut waiting list times.
The Department of Health launched a number of elective care centres last December – for cataract and varicose vein procedures – and will now roll out further hubs covering a wide range of specialities.
Thousands of day case routine operations will now be transferred to the new dedicated sites.
The hubs will focus on general surgery and endoscopy, urology, gynaecology, orthopaedics, ENT, paediatrics and neurology.
More than 100,000 day cases, around 25,000 endoscopies and 8,000 paediatric procedures will now be carried out under the new system.
Health department permanent secretary Richard Pengelly said: “Dedicated elective care centres are a priority and a key part of tackling hospital waiting times.
“All too often at present, routine surgery has to be postponed because hospital theatres are needed for urgent and emergency cases.”
Mr Pengelly added: “By creating day surgery hubs on standalone sites away from 24 hour emergency departments, we can make our system more productive for the benefit of patients.
“A key issue will be the location of the centres. This will inevitably mean that some people will have to travel a bit further for their day surgery, but we will achieve significant and sustainable reductions in the waiting times for the procedures. Previous work suggests service users accept this trade off.”
The British Medical Association (BMA) in Northern Ireland has welcomed the plans as proof that the department is “prepared to take action to tackle the issues” affecting our healthcare system.
BMA NI chairman Tom Black said: “Hopefully these plans will be developed in consultation with our members, and will make a real difference in tackling the pressure on acute services and address waiting times for patients.”