SDLP South Down MLA Colin McGrath has called for greater transparency around the North’s healthcare waiting lists.
He was speaking after the Public Services Ombudsman launched an investigation into how the health trusts communicate with patients on waiting lists.
Mr McGrath said it was important that patients’ complaints were fully investigated and communications improved going forward.
He also proposed the introduction of a waiting lists dashboard, similar to the one used by the Department of Health during the coronavirus pandemic, to monitor the status of waiting lists and the progress being made in clearing them.
South Down MLA Mr McGrath said:
“Everyone in the North is acutely aware of the current situation surrounding waiting lists. Many people face years long waits for routine procedures that would greatly improve their quality of life, while important targets are missed for people in need of life-saving treatment. There are currently over 300,000 people on a waiting list here and every one of them deserves better.
“Facing such a long wait for treatment is incredibly difficult for patients and their families, but what makes it worse is when there is a lack of communication from the relevant health trust. I know our hardworking health and support staff do everything they can under huge pressures, but we often hear reports of people unaware of the status of their treatment, where they are on a waiting list or when they can next expect to be seen. The least we can do for patients left languishing is provide them with up to date and accurate information.
“I welcome the investigation from the Public Services Ombudsman and hope that the findings will allow us to address these issues and ensure better communication between patients and health trusts going forward. It’s important that while our Assembly remains mothballed due to the actions of the DUP, we explore every avenue open to us to improve how our health service operates in anticipation of wider reform.
“I am also proposing the creation of a health waiting lists dashboard, similar to the one administered by the Department of Health during the coronavirus pandemic and discontinued this week. This would allow us to keep track of the constantly changing situation around waiting lists and monitor progress as we attempt to get them under control. I believe the more information we have freely available around these issues the more likely we are to inspire trust and confidence from the public and make significant progress.”