Surgeons support new report highlighting ‘how children are waiting far too long for healthcare in Northern Ireland’
19 Oct 2021
The Royal College of Surgeons of England supports a new report which warns that children in Northern Ireland (NI) are waiting too long to receive specialist support and surgical treatment.
The report, published by the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) today, highlights that 1 in 5 children and young people are waiting for a first or review outpatient appointment with a consultant. It also finds that 17,194 children and young people were waiting over 1 year for a first consultant outpatient appointment and 510 for over 4 years. It makes a number of key recommendations - including the need for greater transparency of data [i].
Mr Isaac Philip, Consultant Paediatric Surgeon and Regional Specialty Professional Advisor from The Royal College of Surgeons of England in Northern Ireland said: “Despite surgeons and surgical teams in Northern Ireland working extremely hard in resource-limited circumstances, children are waiting far too long for surgery. This report from NICCY shines a light on the time children in NI have to wait for hospital treatment. It reveals more than 17,000 children have waited more than a year for their first consultant appointment in paediatrics. We also know from the latest available Department of Health statistics that 864 children are waiting for paediatric surgery [ii].
“Very sadly, if there is a delay in children having an operation, it can impact their life outcomes. It is therefore vital that children receive time-appropriate health and social care support.
“Today’s report makes a number of recommendations which echo our own action plan ‘10 Steps Not 10 Years [iii]’. This includes the need for better and more transparent data on waiting lists. Forecasting patient demand is crucial to planning the recovery of surgical services, as well as helping patients understand how long they will be waiting for surgery.
“We have consistently called for COVID-light sites to be rolled out across Northern Ireland to help to protect surgery from pressures arising from winter flu or if there is another wave of COVID-19. We very much welcome the Department of Health’s plans to create two new elective hubs at Musgrave and Omagh to help address the backlog although it is unclear at this stage if paediatric services will be accommodated within these sites.
“The workforce issue affecting paediatrics is a long term problem. It requires urgent attention to increase the number of paediatric nurses and paediatric surgical nurses. Overall, there is a shortage of nurses and theatre space. We welcome the NI Department of Health’s aspiration to improve our healthcare system and we support its work in progressing a regional approach to healthcare. The fact remains that we must prioritise helping more children to get the surgery, and hospital treatment, they desperately need.”
- [i] A call for greater transparency of data and moving towards the Referral to Treatment (RTT) system was highlighted in New Decade New Approach January 2020 document and also the Department of Health’s June 2021 Elective Care Framework (ECF).
- [ii] DOH Inpatient Waiting Time quarterly statistics April to June 2021 https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/hs-niwts-inpatient-waiting-times-q1-21-22.pdf
- [iii] 10 Steps Not 10 Years Northern Ireland Surgical Recovery Action Plan https://www.rcseng.ac.uk/about-the-rcs/government-relations-and-consultation/position-statements-and-reports/action-plan-for-northern-ireland/
The Royal College of Surgeons of England is represented in Northern Ireland by a Professional Board of 20 surgeons reflecting the specialty areas of: Neurosurgery, ENT, Paediatrics, General Surgery, Trauma and Orthopaedics, Plastics, Urology, Vascular, Cardiothoracic and OMFS. The Board includes regional specialty advisors, Association of Surgeons in Training (ASiT), QUB Medical School Surgical Society, NIMDTA Head of the School of Surgery and an RCS England Council member. The purpose of the Board is to improve surgical outcomes for patients, advocate locally and support the dissemination of good practice and professional guidance.
The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care. For more information, please contact the RCS Press Office:
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