Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said more support needs to be given to people on waiting lists, after the latest figures showed a rise in those waiting for more than nine weeks for outpatient appointments.
According to Departmental figures, over two-thirds of patients were waiting more than nine weeks for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment. A total of 167,250 have been waiting more than nine weeks and 39,557 have been waiting more than 52 weeks. The target for outpatient waiting times is at least 50 per cent of patients should wait no longer than nine weeks by March 2017.
The nine-week outpatient figures are down from June but up from last September, while the 52-week list shows a rise from both June and last September.
South Belfast MLA Ms Bradshaw said there was also a need to give emotional support to those on the waiting lists.
“Mental wellbeing has to be much more central to everything we do, including for those on the waiting lists. There is a need to ensure those waiting on appointments and procedures are kept updated on their situations. We must give those waiting on diagnosis access to mental health services and other pastoral support.
“Regular and appropriate updates, with simultaneous access to secondary and emotional support while on waiting lists, will go some way to mitigate against the emotional distress from waiting to access health services.
“Meanwhile the Minister must prioritise tackling waiting lists as part of the much-needed reform process. Growing waiting lists are not only an issue for people on them but all of wider society.”