Almost a quarter of outpatients waiting more than a year for an appointment

Lagan Valley Hospital.
Lagan Valley Hospital.

More than 14,000 patients in the South Eastern Health Trust area have been waiting more than a year for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, according to the government’s latest figures.

The Department of Health today published the quarterly Northern Ireland Waiting Times Statistics, relating to the position at June 30, 2017 - and they show a worsening situation across the Province.

The 2017/18 Ministerial target relating to outpatient waiting times states that by March 2018, at least 50 per cent of patients should wait no longer than nine weeks for a first outpatient appointment, with no patient waiting longer than 52 weeks.

However, the department’s figures show that the South Eastern Trust is failing to meet those targets, and that more than 24 per cent of all patients (14,072 people) awaiting a first consultant-led outpatient appointment have been waiting more than a year.

The figures also show that there were more than 9,000 patients in the Trust area waiting for inpatient and day case admissions as of June 30.

Again the target states that no patient should have to wait more than 52 weeks to be seen, but the statistics reveal that almost 1,200 have been on the waiting list for over a year.

In terms of diagnostic reporting turnaround times, the South Eastern Trust performed best in Northern Ireland, but still didn’t meet the draft 2017/18 Ministerial target that all urgent diagnostic tests should be reported on within two days of the test being undertaken.

The South Eastern Trust reported the highest proportion of urgent tests within two days (94.8%), with the other health trusts reporting between 79.4% and 94.2% of urgent tests within two days.

Responding to the figures, a spokesperson for the South Eastern Trust said: “The South Eastern Trust is concerned about the increasing times for patients to access elective surgery, and we apologise to those who are waiting longer than we would like.

“We will continue to prioritise those in greatest need, and to pursue opportunities to increase our capacity.

“The proposals contained in our savings plan are currently out to public consultation.”

• Number of patients waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment in the South Eastern Trust and weeks waiting – 30th June 2017:

0-6 weeks - 10,239

6-9 weeks - 3,416

9-12 weeks - 2,547

12-15 weeks - 2,898

15-18 weeks - 2,917

18-52 weeks - 21,536

More than 52 weeks - 14,072

Total waiting 57,625

• Percentage of patients waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment in the South Eastern Trust and weeks waiting – 30th June 2017:

0-6 weeks - 17.8%

6-9 weeks - 5.9%

9-12 weeks - 4.4%

12-15 weeks - 5.0%

15-18 weeks - 5.1%

18-52 weeks - 37.4%

More than 52 weeks - 24.4%

The figures reveal a worsening situation across Northern Ireland:

At 30 June 2017, a total of 264,451 patients were waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, 4.5% (11,358) more than at 31 March 2017 (253,093) and 17.2% (38,858) more than at 30 June 2016 (225,593).

Over two thirds (71.6%, 189,289) of patients were waiting more than nine weeks for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment at 30 June 2017, compared with 69.6% (176,276) at 31 March 2017 and 64.8% (146,167) at 30 June 2016.

At 30 June 2017, 24.2% (64,074) of patients were waiting more than 52 weeks for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, compared with 21% (53,113) at 31 March 2017, and 13.4% (30,170) at 30 June 2016.

During the quarter ending June 2017, there were 117,737 attendances for a first outpatient appointment, a decrease of 6.3% (7,976) on the number seen during the quarter ending March 2017 (125,713), and 8.3% (10,619) less than during the quarter ending June 2016 (128,356).

• Number of patients waiting for inpatient and day case admissions in the South Eastern Trust and weeks waiting – 30th June 2017:

0-6 - 2,561

6-13 - 1,659

13-21 - 1,486

21-26 - 620

26-52 - 1,581

More than 52 - 1,161

Total waiting - 9,068