New statistics show that the Department of Health has failed to meet its own waiting time targets.
The figures demonstrate that in many cases patients are having to wait twice the time that they would have waited during the same period last year.
Despite the 2015/16 Ministerial target, which stated that from April 2015 at least 60% of patients should wait no longer than nine weeks for a first outpatient appointment, at the end of June 2015, 60.8% were waiting more than nine weeks.
The total number of people waiting came to 212,444 at the end of June 2015 - a 45.9% increase from June 2014.
Meanwhile, the Ministerial target had also hoped that, as of April 2015, no patient would wait more than 18 weeks for their first outpatient appointment. However, at the end of June, the total amount of people waiting more than 18 weeks had risen to 85,997, in contrast to 20,852 waiting at the end of June 2014.
The 2015/16 Ministerial target stated that from April no patient should wait longer than nine weeks for a diagnostic test. Despite this, 30,061 patients were waiting longer than 9 weeks at the end of June 2015, more than twice the number waiting at the end of June 2014 (14,357 patients).
Health Minister Simon Hamilton responded to the figures: “I am disappointed to see increases in the number of people facing waits. I continue to look to the Health and Social Care Board to work with Trusts to deliver on these targets throughout the rest of this year. I fully appreciate this will be challenging, especially within the constraints of the current financial position, particularly given the increasing number of referrals and necessary reduction in the use of the independent sector. Maintaining the safety of services for patients and clients will remain a priority.”
Locally, there was some good news with the South Eastern HSC Trust reported the highest proportion of urgent tests being returned within two days (97.3%), while other Trusts reported between 78.7% and 94.6%.
See the statistics in full on the DHSSPSNI website.