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DoH commits £700m to tackle waiting lists

Health minister Robin Swann has announced £700m worth of funding will be deployed in order to tackle the waiting list crisis across the North.

The new Elective Care Framework has been published by the Department of Health, which outlines a roadmap of investment in health and social care services here, which aims to ‘restore hope’ for those on waiting lists.

Recent figures showed that more than 330,000 people were on waiting lists for a first outpatient appointment in the North, with some patients waiting years for operations, diagnostic appointments and much more.

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The Framework proposes a £700m investment over five years. It sets out a twin track approach of investment and reform – targeted investment to get many more people treated as quickly as possible, plus reform and investment to eradicate the gap between demand and capacity and ensure backlogs do not keep re-occurring

“I realise this is a big ask at a time when there are many financial demands on our public sector. However, we should have no illusions that this is a crisis that has already dragged on far too long,” Mr Swann today stated.

“The time for talk is over. What we need now is concerted action.”

The Elective Care Framework addresses a number of items in relation to dealing with lengthy waiting lists, including plans for the implementation of “green pathways” with every effort made to keep elected care services entirely separate from any exposure to COVID-19 and the expansion of the elective care centre model with surgeries provided in ring fenced specialist hubs.”

Swann added that the new package would aim to drastically reduce waiting lists by March 2026.

“These are just some of the examples of a suite of initiatives. It will take all these and many more to properly turn the situation around,” the Health Minister stated.

“I want long waits to have been fully banished by March 2026. The Framework sets a target for March 2026 of no patient waiting more than 52 weeks for a first outpatient appointment and inpatient/day case treatment; or 26 weeks for a diagnostics appointment.

“If we can bring forward this timeline we will obviously do so, but we have to acknowledge the scale of the problem that has built up and the capacity restrictions that will limit our room for manoeuvre.

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