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Almost 95,000 wait over a year for first consultant outpatient appointment as waiting lists spiral

More than 14,000 more were waiting first consultant-led appointment than a year previous

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Almost 95,000 patients in Northern Ireland were waiting more than a year for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment in our local hospitals, it has been revealed.

That was the state of play at the end of 2018 – a figure up more than 14,000 on the previous year!

Almost three months on, and earlier Ministerial targets – which were to be achieved by next month – would have NO patient endure such a wait.

But that it is a long way off as figures show waiting lists are growing on a daily basis.

There has been no real marked improvement on the previous year, despite pledges and commitments of funding to address the growing problem and public discontent.

The Department of Health today published its quarterly Northern Ireland waiting times statistics, relating to the position on New Year’s Eve past.

It provides detailed information on the number of people waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, a diagnostic test and inpatient or day case treatment at all hospitals in Northern Ireland.

The 2018/19 Ministerial target relating to outpatient waiting times states that by March 2019, at least 50% of patients should wait no longer than nine weeks for a first outpatient appointment, with no patient waiting longer than 52 weeks

At December 31, 2018, a total of 281,705 patients were waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment.

This is actually up 0.6% (1,792) than at September 30, 2018 (283,497) and 3.7% (10,152) more than at December 31, 2017 (271,553).

Over three quarters (75.9%, 213,752) of patients were waiting more than nine weeks for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment at December 31, 2018, compared with 75.1% (212,985) at September 30, 2018 and 76.2% (206,983) at December 31, 2017.

December 31, 2018, also saw 33.7% – that is 94,953 patients – waiting more than a year for that first consultant-led outpatient appointment.

This is compared with 33.2% (94,222) at the end of September 2018, and 29.7% (80,651) at December 31, 2017.

During the quarter ending December 2018, there were 125,104 attendances for a first outpatient appointment, an increase of 7.4% (8,635) on the number seen during the quarter ending September 2018 (116,469), and 5.4% (6,404) more than during the quarter ending December 2017 (118,700).

The 2018/19 Ministerial target, for inpatient and day case waiting times states that by March 2019, 55% of patients should wait no longer than 13 weeks for inpatient or day case treatment, with no patient waiting longer than 52 weeks.

But again that looks highly unlikely.

At December 31, 2018, a total of 88,605 patients were waiting for admission to hospital, 2.8% (2,386) more than at September 30, 2018 (86,219) and 13.0% (10,165) more than at December 2017 (78,440).

Meanwhile, 64.6% (57,237) patients were waiting more than 13 weeks for either inpatient or day case admission at December 31 past, compared with 66.8% (57,617) at September 30, 2018  and 61.2% (48,003) at 31st December 2017.

Some 24.2% (21,477) of patients were waiting more than 52 weeks for either an inpatient or day case admission, compared with 22.9% (19,715) at September 30, 2018, and 19.1% (14,979) at December 31, 2017.

During the quarter ending September 2018, 47,449 patients received inpatient and day case treatment, 9.9% (4,262) more than during the quarter ending September 2018 (43,187) and 5.7% (2,553) more than during the quarter ending December 2017 (44,351).

Draft 2018/19 Ministerial target for diagnostic waiting times states that, by March 2019, 75% of patients should wait no longer than nine weeks for a diagnostic test, with no patient waiting longer than 26 weeks.

At December 31, 2018, 124,746 patients were waiting for a diagnostic service, 1.9% (2,359) more than at September 30, 2018 (122,387) and 10.7% (12,076) more than at December 31, 2017 (112,670).

More than half (51.5%, 64,233) of patients were waiting longer than nine weeks for a diagnostic test, compared to 51.1% (62,481) at September 30, 2018 and 49.5% (55,723) at December 31, 2017.

Some 22.4% (27,956) of patients were waiting more than 26 weeks for a diagnostic test compared with 20.7% (25,332) at September 30, 2018 and 19.1% (21,521) at December 31, 2017.

Draft 2018/19 Ministerial target for diagnostic reporting times states that, by March 2019, all urgent diagnostic tests should be reported on within two days of the test being undertaken.

A total of 425,014 diagnostic tests were reported on and dispatched to the referring clinician at hospitals in Northern Ireland during the quarter ending December 2018, 4.9% (19,776) more than the quarter ending September 2018 (405,238), and 2.6% (10,730) more than the quarter ending December 2017 (414,284).

Of the 57,123 urgent diagnostic tests reported on during the quarter ending December 2018, 87.4% (49,940) were reported on within two days.

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