Waiting Lists

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 10th October 2016.

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Photo of Alan Chambers Alan Chambers UUP 2:30 pm, 10th October 2016

T1. Mr Chambers asked the Minister of Health what advice or hope she can offer to those people, and their families, who are in pain and enduring major disruption to their quality of life, given that, today, one in five people are on a waiting list, including 33,600 outpatients waiting longer than a year; 93% of red-flagged breast cancer patients in the Southern Trust area not being seen within 14 days; and thousands waiting for non-elective surgery in the Ulster Hospital, including many of my constituents. (AQT 296/16-21)

Photo of Michelle O'Neill Michelle O'Neill Sinn Féin

I share the Member's concern about waiting times. Since I took up office, I have said that some of the waiting times are totally unacceptable. We need to transform how we deliver health and social care so that people are not sitting on waiting lists. I have inherited what I think is an outdated system that is trying to deliver 21st-century health and social care. We have to transform how we deliver care in order to bring down waiting lists. I am certainly committed to that. I have told the House that I intend to announce my way forward on how we will transform health and social care, and I will do that over the next number of weeks. The situation with waiting lists, whether they be for breast cancer referrals, which we discussed last week, or autism assessments — no matter what it is — cannot continue the way it is. We have to address it, and I have said that doing that is a priority for me.

Photo of Alan Chambers Alan Chambers UUP

Many people await the much-delayed publication of the Bengoa report. Will the Minister, first, give an account for the delay and, secondly, give a commitment that it will be published in its totality and nothing in the original report will be withheld?

Photo of Caitriona Ruane Caitriona Ruane Deputy Speaker

The Minister can choose which of those questions to answer.

Photo of Michelle O'Neill Michelle O'Neill Sinn Féin

I have already said publicly that I intend to publish the document, and I will do so on 25 October, so you can get your reading ready for that day. I have told the Committee for Health that that is what I will do. Nothing will be held back. I will publish the report by Professor Bengoa and the panel, but, more importantly, alongside that I will publish how I intend to take things forward, transform health and social care, deliver better outcomes and bring down waiting lists. I think that that is the piece of work that we all want. I look forward to engaging with everybody on that because, at this time, we have an opportunity to show political leadership and work with clinicians to ensure that we have clear patient pathways and a better system that delivers 21st-century care for all those who need health and social care services.