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Royal College of Surgeons warns patients in Northern Ireland are left waiting too long for surgery

23 Feb 2017

Northern Ireland Department of Health waiting time statistics published today show patients continue to wait too long for surgery. Data for the quarter from October to the end of December 2016 show 55.3% of patients were waiting longer than 13 weeks to be admitted for inpatient or day case treatment. For the same period, 12% of patients waited more than 52 weeks to be admitted for inpatient or day case treatment.

Today’s data means waiting time targets were missed throughout 2016. Currently, Government targets require that less than 45% of patients should be waiting over 13 weeks and no patients should be waiting longer than 52 weeks for treatment. Northern Ireland’s waiting times targets have changed often over the years. Using the targets in force at each quarter in recent years, the 13 weeks waiting times target has not been met since the quarter ending 31 March 2013 and the 52 weeks target has not been completely achieved in the last 10 years.

Responding to these figures, a spokesperson for the Royal College of Surgeons, said

“It has been over four years since the health service in Northern Ireland last met its 13 week waiting time target for inpatient and day case treatment and ten years since the 52 week target was met. Currently, over two thirds (70.4%) of patients are waiting more than 13 weeks for inpatient treatment. This doesn’t even come close to meeting the current target.

“We cannot forget that behind these statistics are potentially very ill and anxious patients who are being made to wait too long for surgery. This is the true impact of waiting times spiralling out of control in Northern Ireland.

“The reasons for high waiting times are complex and will not be solved overnight. The recently published Elective Care Plan sets out a series of system reforms, including the removal of the 13 week target for inpatient and day case treatment meaning the only remaining target would be for no patients to wait more than a year for treatment.

“We are deeply concerned that removing the 13 week target means the HCS in Northern Ireland becomes even less ambitious at improving access to surgery. Next week’s elections offer an opportunity for political parties to return to the Executive, debate the Elective Care Plan, and reaffirm their commitment to improving access to surgery in Northern Ireland.”

Notes to editors

1.    Full data available here:

2.    Further information on the Elective Care Plan:

3.    The Royal College of Surgeons is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

4.    For more information, please contact the RCS Press Office
Telephone: 020 7869 6047/6052
For out of hours media enquiries: 07966 486832

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