Nesbitt reveals that over 33,600 patients waiting longer than a year for crucial hospital appointment

Ulster Unionist Party Leader, Mike Nesbitt MLA, has warned that the unprecedented crisis engulfing hospital waiting times is compromising the safety of patients in Northern Ireland. The Leader of the Opposition was speaking after it was revealed to him during Question Time in the Assembly that 33,618 current patients have been waiting longer than 52 weeks for a first outpatient appointment.

Mike Nesbitt said:

“These figures are frightening. We have a relatively small population of just 1.85m and yet incredibly tens of thousands of them are currently being forced to wait longer than a year for their first appointment with a doctor. Amongst those waiting will be patients who are genuinely petrified about delays in their diagnosis, as well as many others in daily pain and discomfort awaiting treatment. The reason that targets exist is because it is very widely accepted that the longer patients are forced to wait for treatment, the greater harm they may ultimately come to. With so many patients not receiving any care at all - never mind in a safe or timely manner - by dwelling on a waiting list for such extended periods of time, I believe that lives are being placed at risk.

“The official Executive target was that until a recently, no patient should have to wait longer than 18 weeks. Despite that target now being weakened to 52 weeks, the Executive is still failing to meet it.

“The crisis facing our local NHS is unprecedented and this has contributed to the fact that the number of people waiting for hospital treatment, as well as the lengths of time they are being forced to wait, is now greater than at any time in recent history. It is not good enough that Health Minister Michelle O'Neill makes a speech in the Assembly agreeing that the situation is intolerable, as if she is a member of the Opposition. She is not in Opposition. She is in power and it is high time she used that power to reverse the slide.”

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