SDLP Health Spokesperson Mark H Durkan has slammed recent Northern Ireland waiting time statistics as ‘diabolical’ citing a waiting list 100 times bigger than England- despite having a population significantly larger than the North.
The 2019/20 Ministerial target relating to outpatient waiting times stated that by March 2020, at least 50% of patients should wait no longer than nine weeks for a first outpatient appointment, with no patient waiting longer than a year- a target Mr Durkan has deemed ‘wildly unattainable’ given the current juncture.
He said: “This is the starkest evidence we have seen - and we see more evidence every day - of the drastic and urgent need for the transformation of our crumbling healthcare system.
“The population of England is 55 million and at the end of June 1,089 people were waiting over a year for a consultant-led outpatient appointment. The population of Northern Ireland is 1.8 million and at the end of June, 105,486 people were waiting over a year for a consultant-led outpatient appointment.
“Our waiting lists are 100 times bigger than a country with a population 30 times ours. Where is the outrage from our political leaders? Where is the accountability- the duty of care owed to the electorate?
“Anywhere else in the world, a government would be brought down- and rightly so, for failing to tackle a situation as chronic as this or mitigate such a disaster. Yet here, the DUP and Sinn Féin refuse to form a government to even try. They have stood hands in their pockets, eyes averted as our health service implodes.
“The extent of the situation cannot be overstated- we have seen to date, the devastating impact of political negligence which has allowed the wounds of our health service to fester. This is a situation that cannot heal without urgent intervention.
“Nor can we overstate the colossal impact this is having on individuals and families whose lives are put on hold as they wait in pain for appointments- only to wait even longer again for an operation. This is affecting people's ability to work, to function fully, to exercise, to socialise and inevitably proves detrimental to people's mental health as a result.
“These figures are truly staggering and even then I do not believe that they reveal the true extent of how bad the situation actually is; how long patients really have to wait or how that wait impacts on their lives. Tory austerity is preventing the action and investment necessary to turn things around, as is the refusal of the DUP and Sinn Féin to reach agreement on the restoration of devolved government.”