This article was originally published Friday, November 26th, 2021 by News Letter. Author unknown.
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Waiting times for treatment at Northern Ireland hospitals – already amongst the worst in Europe – continue to deteriorate, new figures show.
And surgeons are now calling for more to be done to help patients while they “languish” on the “ever-growing waiting lists”.
The latest figures, published on Thursday, show that around 10% of the population (188,060 patients) had been forced to wait at least a year — and in some cases several years — for their first outpatient appointment with a consultant.
The figures also show that a total of 116,199 people have already been referred for surgery and are now on a waiting list – a 2.9% rise on the previous quarter (111,209) and 16.5% rise on the same quarter last year.
Of that total, 67,474 patients have been waiting more than a year.
Overall, around 474,545 patients are waiting to either see a consultant for the first time or are waiting on surgery – around a quarter of the entire population.
Mr David Swain, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon and professional advisor at the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “Unfortunately waiting lists are at a record high and they remain the worst in the UK.
“Very sadly, patients are deteriorating while they wait years for treatment and clinical advice. This is why we are calling for better support for patients left languishing on waiting lists in Northern Ireland.
Mr Swain said ‘Covid-light’ hubs where operations can continue would be crucial for tackling the problem.
“We need to increase the number of surgical hubs where planned surgery can take place,” the consultant surgeon said.
“These Covid-light sites are key to keeping operations going through the winter and beyond,”