SDLP Health Spokesperson Cara Hunter has expressed her deep concern at the North’s latest consultant appointment waiting times.
The latest figures from the Department of Health show that 53% of patients are waiting more than a year for their first consultant appointment.
Targets are also being missed in relation to inpatient and day-case admissions and diagnostic services.
Ms Hunter said it was important also to remember that there are human stories behind every single person on these waiting lists.
The East Derry MLA said:
“While it is clear that our health service is under huge pressure as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – particularly in light of the recent spike in cases and hospital admissions – these figures are just not acceptable. Having to wait over a full year for a consultant appointment means in reality that some parts of the service are in a state of slow-motion collapse – you cannot describe a system where patients are required to wait for a year as a functioning service in any meaningful way.
“The fact is that people Northern Ireland have to wait longer than most other people in Europe for an appointment to see a specialist doctor and this cannot be acceptable.
“The time for discussion is over and the time for action is now. There are multiple plans for health reform which need to be progressed alongside the funding for reforms. That funding must be provided by the Finance Minister. Just this week I met with Sinn Féin Finance Minister Conor Murphy and urged him to ensure proper financing of these reforms. The time for waiting has long since passed. The SDLP has delivered a clear message that funding is required for our health service and its long past time the Finance Minister stepped up.”