Hope day surgery shake-up will reduce NI waiting times
The Department of Health has announced a shake-up in the way day surgery is to be organised in Northern Ireland.
From December, new elective care centres will undertake all planned surgeries for cataracts and varicose veins.
It is part of the transformation of health care as set out in the Bengoa report.
The Department says it hopes this move will help reduce waiting times for these procedures.
There are currently more than 3,500 people waiting longer than the 13-week ministerial target for cataract surgery and more than 1,000 are waiting longer than 13 weeks for varicose vein treatment.
Patients being treated for varicose veins will go to Lagan Valley and Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex.
The centres for cataract operations will be at three hospital locations - Mid-Ulster, Downe and South Tyrone.
At the minute, these routine procedures are spread over a number of hospital sites.
While some patients may be asked to travel further for their treatment, the aim is that they will be seen faster and have a better experience.
The centres will be housed in existing buildings.
According to the Department of Health existing resources and staff will also be used with only surgeons expected to travel.
As routine surgery will be carried out on separate sites from urgent and emergency hospital care - it is hoped there will also be less competition for operating rooms.
These centres will be prototypes - final decisions on permanent elective care centre locations will go out to public consultations and will require ministerial sign-off.
The Permanent Health Secretary Richard Pengelly said it is an important step in the transformation of hospital services.
He said: "The current waiting times for hospital surgery are totally unacceptable, and elective care centres are central to our plans to eradicate this scourge on our service."
"Delivering services on fewer hospital sites will increase the capacity of the health system and allow us to deliver more procedures," he added.
The Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said he hoped there will be benefits for patients.
"For people currently waiting far too long for cataract operations we estimate we will increase productivity by up to 30% - that means there will be up to 2000 more cataract operations per year.
"For those waiting on vein surgery we estimate probably upwards of 600 people will be able to benefit - more than is currently the case."