I support the motion, which highlights the Northern Ireland health crisis. As I said earlier, 392,000 people are on waiting lists. This issue has not been referenced by the Back-Benchers from the Sinn Féin/DUP Government. They seem to have skated over this. The failure to address the pressures on our health service has led to this intolerable situation, with one in five of the population being on a waiting list.
This is a failure to address a basic need: healthcare. To the Health Minister, the Finance Minister and the entire Northern Ireland Executive, which is in its sixth year of being led by DUP/Sinn Féin, I say that this is unacceptable and it is time that it was addressed. What have you done about it?
Like others, I commend our health staff for the treatment that they give when patients eventually get to the top of their waiting list. However, that is the problem: too many are parked on waiting lists.
The waiting times summary report of August 2016 for the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, which covers my area, shows quite concerning figures, with 17,888 patients waiting more than nine weeks — ie 64% of patients — and 1,620 waiting for more than a year to be seen or treated. Areas of concern are ENT, gastroenterology, general surgery, gynaecology, neurology, pain management, rheumatology and thoracic medicine, with many patients waiting more than 45 weeks.
Early diagnosis and treatment will reduce the suffering of patients and produce better long-term outcomes. With lengthy waiting lists, we also get increased pressure on GP services. We get additional unplanned A&E admissions to hospitals, and there are pressures on staff because patients are not being treated in an orderly, efficient manner.