The Department of Health today published the quarterly Northern Ireland Inpatient, Day Case and Outpatient Waiting Times Statistics, relating to the position at 31 December 2020.
The Waiting Times Statistics releases show detailed information on the number of people waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, a diagnostic test and inpatient or day case treatment at hospitals in Northern Ireland.
Key facts and figures for NI Waiting Times at end of December 2020
Waiting Times for a First Outpatient Appointment
- The 2020/21 Ministerial target relating to outpatient waiting times states that by March 2021, at least 50% of patients should wait no longer than nine weeks for a first outpatient appointment, with no patient waiting longer than 52 weeks.
- A total of 323,174 patients were waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, 1.2% (4,015) less than at 30 September 2020 (327,189) and 6.0% (18,157) more than at 31 December 2019 (305,017).
- An additional 13,042 patients were waiting for their first consultant-led outpatient appointment at a Day Case Procedure Centre (DPC) for cataract treatment.
- Over four fifths (85.3%, 275,651) of patients were waiting more than 9 weeks for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, compared with 84.9% (277,776) at 30 September 2020 and 78.4% (239,130) at 31 December 2019.
- Over half (51.9%; 167,806) of patients were waiting more than 52 weeks for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, compared with 47.5% (155,497) at 30th September 2020, and 36.7% (111,963) at 31 December 2019.
- During the quarter ending December 2020, there were 66,055 attendances for a first outpatient appointment, an increase of 11.4% (6,746) on the number seen during the quarter ending September 2020 (59,309), and 43.1% (50,052) less than during the quarter ending December 2019 (116,107).
Waiting Times for Inpatient and Day Case Admission
- The 2020/21 Ministerial target, for inpatient and day case waiting times, states that by March 2021, 55% of patients should wait no longer than 13 weeks for inpatient or day case treatment, with no patient waiting longer than 52 weeks.
- A total of 105,159 patients were waiting to be admitted to hospitals in Northern Ireland, 5.5% (5,441) more than at 30 September 2020 (99,718), and 16.2% (14,645) more than at 31 December 2019 (90,514).
- An additional 3,893 patients were waiting for treatment at a Day Case Procedure Centre (DPC); 872 patients were waiting to be admitted to a Varicose Veins DPC, with a further 3,021 patients waiting to be admitted to a Cataracts DPC.
- Over four-fifths (81.7%, 85,883) of patients were waiting more than 13 weeks to be admitted for treatment, compared with 83.6% (83,381) at 30 September 2020 and 68.7% (62,163) at 31 December 2019.
- More than half (53.5%, 56,242) of patients were waiting more than 52 weeks for either an inpatient or day case admission, compared with 46.5% (46,417) at 30 September 2020, and 29.9% (27,090) at 31 December 2019.
- During the quarter ending December 2020, 26,968 patients received inpatient and day case treatment, 5.0% (1.283) more than during the quarter ending 30 September 2020 (25,685) and 37.2% (15,952) fewer than during the quarter ending 31 December 2019.
Waiting Times for a Diagnostic Service
- The 2020/21 Ministerial target for diagnostic waiting times states that, by March 2021, 75% of patients should wait no longer than nine weeks for a diagnostic test, with no patient waiting longer than 26 weeks.
- A total of 144,433 patients were waiting for a diagnostic test, 10.1% (16,230) fewer than at 30 September 2020 (160,663), and 2.2% (3,159) more than at 31 December 2019 (141,274).
- More than three-fifths (62.8%, 90,643) of patients were waiting more than 9 weeks for a diagnostic test, compared with 65.4% (105,085) at 30 September 2020 and 57.5% (81,286) at 31 December 2019.
- Two-fifths (40.0%, 57,818) of patients were waiting more than 26 weeks for a diagnostic test compared with 44.8% (71,968) at 30 September 2020 and 30.4% (42,895) at 31 December 2019.
Diagnostic Reporting Turnaround Times
- The draft 2020/21 Ministerial target for diagnostic reporting times states that, by March 2021, all urgent diagnostic tests should be reported on within two days of the test being undertaken.
- A total of 361,248 diagnostic tests were reported on and dispatched to the referring clinician at hospitals in Northern Ireland during the quarter ending December 2020, 5.6% (19,314) more than the quarter ending September 2020 (341,934), and 14.6% (61,735) fewer than the quarter ending December 2019 (422,983).
- Of the 75,437 urgent diagnostic tests reported on, 86.4% (65,172) were reported on within 2 days.
- The Western HSC Trust reported the highest proportion of urgent tests within two days (93.0%), with the other HSC Trusts reporting between 83.2% and 85.6% of urgent tests within 2 days.
Notes to editors:
1. All publications are available on the Department of Health website.
2. About the data
- The sources for the data contained in this release are Departmental Information Returns, and the DoH Inpatient and Outpatient Waiting Times Datasets. These returns collect information from HSC Trusts and the Health and Social Care Board on a quarterly basis.
- Figures will also include privately funded patients waiting to be seen/for treatment in Health Service hospitals and those patients who are resident outside Northern Ireland.
- Data incorporate all returns and amendments received from HSC Trusts up to 22nd February 2020.
3. Outpatient definitions
- An outpatient appointment is an appointment to enable a patient to see a consultant, a member of their team or a locum for such a member, in respect of one referral.
- The waiting list figures include all outpatients who have not had their first appointments by the end of the quarter including those who have cancelled or missed a previous appointment.
- The outpatient waiting list figures presented do not include maternity specialties 501 (Obstetrics), 510 (Obstetrics (Ante Natal)) and 520 (Obstetrics (Post Natal)).
- Patients waiting for cataract treatment (Ophthalmology) can now be seen at a Day Case Procedure Centre at Mid-Ulster hospital.
4. Inpatient and Day Case definitions
- Inpatient admissions include both (a) patients admitted electively with the expectation that they will remain in hospital for at least one night, and (b) non-elective admissions (e.g. emergency admissions). A patient who is admitted with either of the above intentions, but who leaves hospital for any reason without staying overnight, is still counted as an ordinary admission. The figures in this statistics release only include non-emergency admissions.
- Day Cases are patients admitted electively during the course of a day with the intention of receiving care who do not require the use of a hospital bed overnight and who return home as scheduled. If this original intention is not fulfilled and the patient stays overnight, such a patient is counted as an ordinary admission.
- The waiting list figures presented include people waiting to be admitted as inpatients either as day cases or inpatient admissions.
They do not include:
- Patients admitted as emergency cases;
- Patients undergoing a planned programme of treatment e.g. a series of admissions for chemotherapy;
- Maternity (specialties 510 and 520);
- Patients currently receiving inpatient treatment in hospitals but who are included on other waiting lists;
- Patients who are temporarily suspended from waiting lists.
5. Diagnostic Service definitions
- A diagnostic service provides an examination, test or procedure used to identify a person’s disease or condition and which allows a medical diagnosis to be made.
- The diagnostic waiting list figures presented include people waiting for a test with a diagnostic element including tests that are part diagnostic and subsequently part therapeutic. They do not include:
- Patients currently admitted to a hospital bed and waiting for an emergency procedure;
- Purely therapeutic procedures. A therapeutic procedure is defined as a procedure which involves actual treatment of a person’s disease, condition or injury;
- Patients undergoing a planned programme of tests;
- Patients waiting for procedures as part of a screening programme.
6. Diagnostic Reporting Times definitions
- The diagnostic reporting turnaround time is the length of time between the diagnostic test being undertaken and the results being verified and dispatched to the referring clinician.
- Diagnostic reporting times apply to a selected subset of diagnostic services. These services are: Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Computerised Tomography; Non-Obstetric Ultrasound; Plain Film X-rays; Barium Studies; DEXA Scan; Radionuclide Imaging; Pure Tone Audiometry; Echocardiography; Perfusion Studies; Peripheral Neurophysiology; Sleep Studies; and Urodynamics Pressures and Flows.
7. This information was collated by Hospital Information Branch, DoH.
Further information is available from:
Hospital Information Branch,
Department of Health
Annexe 2, Castle Buildings
Stormont, BT4 3SQ
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