The Department of Health today published the quarterly Northern Ireland Waiting Times Statistics, relating to the position at 31 March 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 March 2020
Waiting Times for a First Outpatient Appointment
- The 2019/20 Ministerial target relating to outpatient waiting times states that by March 2020, 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 307,066 patients were waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, 0.7% (2,049) more than at 31 December 2019 (305,017) and 6.3% (18,312) more than at 31 March 2019 (288,754).
- An additional 1,503 patients were waiting for their first consultant-led outpatient appointment at a Regional Assessment and Surgical Centre for cataract treatment.
- Almost four fifths (79.1%, 242,864) of patients were waiting more than 9 weeks for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, compared with 78.4% (239,130) at 31 December 2019 and 74.0% (213,708) at 31 March 2019.
- Almost two fifths 38.1% (117,066) of patients were waiting more than 52 weeks for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, compared with 36.7% (111,963) at 31 December 2019, and 33.9% (97,851) at 31 March 2019.
- During the quarter ending March 2020, there were 105,321 attendances for a first outpatient appointment, a decrease of 10.2% (11,906) on the number seen during the quarter ending December 2019 (117,227), and 13.9% (16,992) less than during the quarter ending March 2019 (122,313).
Waiting Times for Inpatient and Day Case Admission
- The 2019/20 Ministerial target, for inpatient and day case waiting times, states that by March 2020, 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 93,641 patients were waiting to be admitted to hospitals in Northern Ireland, 3.5% (3,127) more than at 31 December 2019 (90,514), and 7.1% (6,191) more than at 31 March 2019 (87,450).
- An additional 3,294 patients were waiting for treatment at a Regional Assessment and Surgical Centre (RASC); 932 patients were waiting to be admitted to a Varicose Veins RASC, with a further 2,362 patients waiting to be admitted to a Cataracts RASC.
- Over two thirds (71.4%, 66,872) of patients were waiting more than 13 weeks for either inpatient or day case admission, compared with 68.7% (62,163) at 31st December 2019 and 65.0% (56,871) at 31 March 2019.
- Almost a third (32.8%, 30,696) of patients were waiting more than 52 weeks for either an inpatient or day case admission, compared with 29.9% (27,090) at at 31 December 2019, and 25.6% (22,350) at 31 March 2019.
- During the quarter ending December 2019, 17,549 patients received inpatient and day case treatment, 59.4% (25,677) fewer than during the quarter ending December 2019 (43,226) and 65.2% (32,914) fewer than during the quarter ending March 2019 (50,463).
Waiting Times for a Diagnostic Service
- The draft 2019/20 Ministerial target for diagnostic waiting times states that, by March 2020, 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 131,040 patients were waiting for a diagnostic service, 7.2% (10,234) fewer than at 31 December 2019 (141,274) and 0.5% (637) more than at 31 March 2019 (130,403).
- More than half (55.1%, 72,248) of patients were waiting longer than 9 weeks for a diagnostic test, compared with 57.5% (81,286) at 31 December 2019 and 49.4% (64,387) at 31 March 2019.
- Over a quarter (27.3%, 35,784) of patients were waiting more than 26 weeks for a diagnostic test, compared with 30.4% (42,895) at 31 December 2019 and 21.7% (28,321) at 31 March 2019.
Diagnostic Reporting Turnaround Times
- The draft 2019/20 Ministerial target for diagnostic reporting times states that, by March 2020, all urgent diagnostic tests should be reported on within two days of the test being undertaken.
- A total of 408,012 diagnostic tests were reported on and dispatched to the referring clinician at hospitals in Northern Ireland during the quarter ending March 2020, 3.5% (14,971) fewer than the quarter ending December 2019 (422,983), and 1.3% (5,208) fewer than the quarter ending March 2019 (413,220).
- Of the 62,970 urgent diagnostic tests reported on, 85.4% (53,797) were reported on within 2 days.
- The Western HSC Trust reported the highest proportion of urgent tests within two days (94.0%), with the other HSC Trusts reporting between 77.1% and 88.0% of urgent tests within 2 days.
Notes to editors:
- All publications are available on the Department's website.
- About the data
The sources for the data contained in this release are the Departmental Information Returns CH3, CH3-R, SDR1, DRTT and the DoH Inpatient Waiting Time Dataset. 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 31 May 2020.
- 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 Regional Assessment and Surgical Centre at Mid-Ulster hospital.
- 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.
- 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
Belfast BT4 3SQ
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