The HSC Board today said that it welcomed the significant improvement in hospital waiting times in Northern Ireland. At the May meeting, Members were updated with waiting time performance against the standards and targets set by the Health Minister for the quarter ending 31 March 2012.
The Board said that work to reduce hospital waiting times for all patients remains a key priority, and one that is yielding significant improvements as demonstrated by the year-end analysis.
The Board has allocated significant extra funding this year to enable all five health and social care Trusts to increase their capacity to offer services to patients on their waiting lists. This has produced a substantive improvement in performance in the last six months, which is a very welcome development for patients.
Among a series of improvements was a fall of more than 50 per cent in the number of people waiting longer than nine weeks for an out-patient appointment – and a reduction by almost one third of those waiting longer than 13 weeks for admission to hospital.
The Board had raised concerns over Emergency Department (A&E) performance at some hospitals earlier this year. In response to this, the Board had set up an Emergency Department Improvement Group led by Mary Hinds, Director of Nursing, Public Health Agency, to look at ways to improve performance by June 2012. Performance has improved during March 2012 with 76% of patients being seen within the 4 hour performance target.
Commenting at today’s meeting, the HSCB Chief Executive, Mr John Compton, said the figures showed that necessary improvements were being made, and he pledged further effort on the part of everyone involved to consolidate this position.
“What we have today is an indication that things are clearly moving in the right direction,” he said. “We are aiming to continue with this progress. I fully recognise and am very grateful for the efforts of Trust staff and of commissioners to secure reduced waiting times for patients. At the same time I recognise that further improvement is required and the Board will continue to ensure this issue is prioritised,” he continued.
While a short-term downturn in performance is expected owing to reduced hospital activity over the Easter holiday period, the Board remains hopeful that today’s much improved overall trend will be broadly maintained during the months ahead. The Board will continue to monitor waiting time performance and to work with Trusts to ensure that patients receive appropriate and timely care.