Northern Ireland

Waiting lists: Increase in number for NI outpatient appointments

A medic examines an x-ray Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Waiting times for initial outpatient appointments have increased

The number of people waiting for a first outpatient appointment in Northern Ireland has increased by nearly 37% in a year.

In December 2015 there were 236,365 people on waiting lists, compared to 171,866 the year before.

The number of people waiting more than 18 weeks for a first outpatient appointment has more than doubled.

At the end of December 2015, 122,771 were waiting - that's more than half of those on the waiting list.

The equivalent number in the previous year was 48,579.

Test results

The targets for diagnostic waiting times were also breached.

They state that no patient should wait longer than nine weeks for test results.

Department figures show that at the end of last year 35.7% of patients - more than 33,000 people - were waiting longer than nine weeks for their results. That's 30% more than the year before.

Image caption Health Minister Simon Hamilton says that tackling waiting lists is one of his key priorities

In November, Health Minister Simon Hamilton said he planned to use £40m given to his department in the last reallocation of funds to tackle waiting lists.

On Thursday he said that the journey to restore waiting times was under way.

"Improving waiting times continues to be one of my key priorities and the vast majority of additional resources made available by the executive in November are going directly towards tackling waiting times.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The targets for how long patients should have to wait on test results were breached

"This is expected to benefit some 60,000 to 70,000 patients who would otherwise be waiting for assessments, diagnostics and treatments, and is not yet reflected in December figures but will impact on the next set of official statistics.

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