Department of Health statement on latest waiting time statistics

Date published: 28 November 2019

The causes of the continuing growth in waiting times are well documented.

Department statement image

The solutions, however, are extremely challenging. They require sustained investment to address backlogs and build our workforce - as well as the radical reshaping of services.

Demand for care has continued to increase, steadily outstripping the ability of the system to meet it.

The number of appointments and treatments being provided has increased over recent years. However, this increase hasn’t been sufficient to keep pace with the growth in demand.

For a number of years, significant additional investment was made available to help bridge this gap between demand and capacity. This included funding for extra in-house clinics as well as paying for treatments for patients in private clinics.

These extra monies have been in much shorter supply from 2014, due to financial pressures facing the Health and Social Care system and wider public sector. Waiting lists have climbed steadily since then.

The Department has publicly apologised to all those waiting too long for appointments and treatment. It reiterates that apology today.

  • Demand for consultant-led new outpatient assessments has risen by 9.3% between 2009/10 and 2018/19, from 483,220 to 527,972.
  • Consultant-led new outpatient assessments delivered has risen by 8.6% between 2009/10 and 2018/19, from 465,276 to 505,210.
  • Demand for inpatient/day case treatment has risen by 2.4% over the same time period, from 247,751 to 253,602
  • Inpatient/day case treatment delivered has risen by 1% over the same time period, from 244,463 to 246,821. However, this does not take account changes in casemix and complexity.

Notes to editors: 

Notes to editors

  1. The Department’s Permanent Secretary has publicly stated that funding of between £750m and £1bn is required to eradicate waiting lists.
  2. Across NI in 2019/20, it is estimated that there is a gap between funded core HSC capacity and patient demand of approximately 35,000 new outpatient assessments and 41,000 inpatient/day case treatments.
  3. The Elective Care Plan published by the Department in 2017 set out how elective care services can be transformed to increase capacity to meet current and future demand. Actions include expanding capacity and capability in primary care and establishing elective care centres. Implementation of the plan will require significant investment.
  4. With limited funding available, the Department has brought forward aspects of the elective care plan including more treatments being undertaken in primary care rather than the traditional hospital setting. In addition, two prototype day case elective care centres for cataracts and varicose veins have been operational since December 2018.
  5. For media enquiries please contact the Department of Health Press Office on 028 9052 0575 or email For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.
  6. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt

Share this page

Back to top