The Department of Health today published the quarterly Northern Ireland Inpatient, Day Case, Diagnostic and Outpatient Waiting Times Statistics, relating to the position at 31 March 2023.
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.
Changes for this release
Statistics on patients waiting for an outpatient appointment or day case admission at Day Case Procedure Centres are now included in the main waiting list figures rather than being reported separately as in previous releases. Time series presented in these releases have been backdated to reflect this change. The total number of patients waiting each quarter remains unchanged.
Additional statistics are being published detailing analysis of the median and 95th percentile waiting times for outpatients and inpatients/day cases.
The median waiting time is the middle value when all patients are ordered by length of time waiting. This is preferred over the mean as an average of waiting times because waiting times tend to be skewed by longer waits and therefore more patients are waiting for less time than the mean.
The 95th percentile waiting time is the length of time that 95% of patients have been waiting equal to or less than i.e. one in twenty patients have been waiting longer than this time. The 95th percentile is used as an indication of the range of current waiting times without being distorted by extreme values or the prioritisation of urgent waits.
Key facts and figures for NI Waiting Times at end of March 2023
Waiting Times for a First Outpatient Appointment
- the draft 2022/23 target relating to outpatient waiting times states that by March 2023, 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.
- 401,201 patients were waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, 1.6% (6,398) more than at 31 December 2022 (394,803) and 7.3% (27,174) more than at 31 March 2022 (374,054).
- the median waiting time was 53.1 weeks and the 95th percentile was 244.0 weeks (approximately 4 years and 34 weeks).
- 81.3% (326,241) of patients were waiting more than 9 weeks for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, a lower proportion than 83.8% (330,723) at 31 December 2022 and 82.7% (309,165) at 31 March 2022.
- 49.2% (197,345) of patients were waiting more than 52 weeks for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, a lower proportion than 50.0% (197,402) at 31 December 2022, and 52.0% (194,645) at 31 March 2022.
Waiting Times for Inpatient and Day Case Admission
- the draft 2022/23 target, for inpatient and day case waiting times, states that by March 2023, 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 121,879 patients were waiting to be admitted for inpatient or day case treatment in Northern Ireland, 2.6% (3,245) fewer than at 31 December 2022 (125,124), and 3.0% (3,833) fewer than at 31 March 2022 (125,712).
- of the 121,879 patients waiting, 116,999 were waiting to be admitted to hospitals and 4,880 were waiting for treatment at a Day Case Procedure Centre (DPC).
- the median time patients had been waiting was 59.3 weeks and the 95th percentile was 268.3 (approximately 5 years and 8 weeks).
- 77.4% (94,305) of patients were waiting more than 13 weeks to be admitted for treatment, a lower proportion than that at 31 December 2022 (78.0%, 97,659) and at 31 March 2022 (81.3%, 102,164).
- 52.9% (64,513) of patients were waiting more than 52 weeks for either an inpatient or day case admission, compared with 53.7% (67,164) at 31 December 2022, and 56.4% (70,871) at 31 March 2022.
Waiting Times for a Diagnostic Service
- the 2022/23 draft target for diagnostic waiting times states that, by March 2023, 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 173,572 patients were waiting for a diagnostic test, 7.0% (11,376) more than at 31 December 2022 (162,196), and 11.1% (17,302) more than at 31 March 2022 (156,270).
- 51.7% (89,742) of patients were waiting more than 9 weeks for a diagnostic test, compared with 54.6% (88,490) at 31 December 2022 and 50.7% (79,297) at 31 March 2022.
- 26.9% (46,630) of patients were waiting more than 26 weeks for a diagnostic test compared with 27.3% (44,199) at 31 December 2022 and 29.6% (46,312) at 31 March 2022.
Diagnostic Reporting Turnaround Times
- the draft 2022/23 target for diagnostic reporting times states that, by March 2023, all urgent diagnostic tests should be reported on within two days of the test being undertaken.
- a total of 460,786 diagnostic tests were reported on and dispatched to the referring clinician at hospitals in Northern Ireland during the quarter ending March 2023. Of these, 22.8% (104,829) were urgent tests and the remaining 77.2% (355,957) were routine tests.
- of the 104,829 urgent diagnostic tests, 76.8% (80,554) were reported on within 2 days.
Notes to editors:
1. All publications are available online the Department of Health website.
2. About the data
The sources for the data contained in these releases are:
- HSC Trust’s Patient Administration Systems
- DoH Outpatient Waiting Times Dataset
- DoH CH3, QOAR, R-QOAR, V-QOAR and IS1_1 outpatient activity returns
- DoH Inpatient Waiting Times Dataset
- Hospital Inpatient System
- DoH IS1_2 inpatient activity return
- DoH SDR1 diagnostics return
- DOH DRTT diagnostics return
Data incorporate all returns and amendments received from HSC Trusts up to 19 May 2023.
- Outpatient definitions
An outpatient appointment is to enable a patient to see a consultant or a member of their team following an outpatient referral. The majority of referrals will be from a GP however they may also be received from a range of other sources.
These appointments provide an opportunity for consultation, investigation and minor treatment. Appointments can be face-to-face or virtual and patients are not admitted into hospital.
A first attendance is the first of a series or the only attendance at an outpatient service.
Waiting time for a first outpatient appointment begins on the date the HSC Trust receives a referral to a consultant led service.
- Inpatient and Day Case definitions
Inpatient and day case waiting list data comprise the number of patients waiting for inpatient and day case admission to hospital.
Inpatient admissions are patients admitted electively with the expectation that they will remain in hospital for at least one night.
Day case admissions are patients admitted electively with the expectation that although they may require supervised recovery, they do not require the use of a hospital bed overnight and will return home as scheduled the same day.
Waiting time begins from the date the clinician decided to admit the patient.
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 waiting for planned admission i.e. patients given proposed date of admission determined by social or clinical criteria
- patients undergoing a planned programme of treatment e.g. a series of admissions for chemotherapy
- patients waiting for admission as a regular day or night attender
- patients waiting for maternity specialties (except where the intention is to terminate the pregnancy)
- patients waiting who are currently admitted for another reason
- patients who are temporarily suspended for medical or social reasons
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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