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Minister must proactively tackle soaring waiting times in NHSCT

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DUP North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey has called on the Health Minister to provide a clear and proactive timetable for restoration of non-Covid related health services across the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

He commented after the Department of Health’s latest statistics on waiting times indicated that of the 311,090 patients waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, 15.7% resided in the Northern HSC Trust.

Responding, Mr Storey said:

‘‘The publication of June’s waiting time statistics is a sober reminder of how Covid-19, subsequent lockdown restrictions and the suspension of many routine health services has impacted patients desperately seeking an appointment, treatment or surgery.

Almost 17,000 people residing within the NHSCT were waiting more than 52 weeks for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment. 6,398 people were awaiting an appointment to advise on trauma and orthopaedic surgery or treatment. In addition, with particular relevance to services at Causeway Hospital, the detail suggests that 4,265 gynaecology patients and 2,069 paediatric patients were listed on outpatient waiting lists in the Northern Trust on 30 June.

Without a clear and proactive plan or timetable for restoration of services impacted by Covid-19 it is a sad but unavoidable reality that waiting times will worsen, patient outcomes will suffer and more lives will be lost.

It is clear that the threat of Covid-19 will remain with us for some time and it is important that our acute and outpatient settings tackling the virus and other demands are able to coexist safely but effectively. I would strongly urge the Minister, his officials and HSCTs to redouble efforts to prevent a crisis in non-Covid related illness as our health service starts to grapple with winter pressures.’’

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