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Surgeons call for recurrent budget to tackle dismal NI waiting times

30 May 2024

Surgeons have called for a recurrent and protected budget to tackle Northern Ireland’s dismal waiting times. The Royal College of Surgeons of England is extremely concerned by the long waits for treatment patients continue to endure. 

The latest quarterly figures for four out of five health trusts have been published today and show:  

  • 356,229 patients waiting for a first outpatient appointment with a consultant (increase of 4.2% from last quarter, was 341,910)
  • 164,476 waiting for diagnostic test (increase of 7.3%, was 153,333)  
  • 94,537 patients waiting for inpatient or day case admission to hospital (decrease of 3.3%, was 97,794) 
  • The longest surgical waiters are for ENT surgery, 346 weeks or 6.5 years and Urology, 320 weeks or over 6 years.
  • Overall, 57.3% of patients are waiting for admission under the General Surgery, Trauma and Orthopaedics (T&O) Surgery or Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialties  

Responding to the latest figures, Mr Niall McGonigle, Northern Ireland Director of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS England) said:  

“The long waits for treatment that patients in Northern Ireland continue to endure remain extremely concerning. Today’s figures once again emphasise the scale of the task facing health service staff who are working tirelessly to get patients seen. 

“It is vital that the Northern Ireland Executive sets out a recurrent and protected budget to increase capacity and tackle waiting lists. This includes opening more hospital beds for surgical patients, expanding surgical hubs, and supporting health service staff who are under huge pressure. 

“We welcome the new Health Minister, Mike Nesbitt, and offer support to him as he begins the challenge of ensuring Northern Ireland’s health service meets the needs of its patients now, and in the future.” 


Notes to editors

1. Today’s data reflects activity across IP/DC, OP and diagnostics from October 2023 to March 2024. See details here: 
2. Figures exclude the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust as data was not available as at 31 December 2023 and 31 March 2024 due to encompass. 
3. The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and is represented in Northern Ireland by a Professional Board of over 20 surgeons reflecting the specialty areas of: Neurosurgery, ENT, Paediatrics, General Surgery, Trauma and Orthopaedics, Plastics, Urology, Vascular, Cardiothoracic and OMFS. 
4. The Board includes 10 elected regional specialty advisors, Association of Surgeons in Training (ASiT), QUB & UU Medical School Surgical Societies, NIMDTA Head of the School of Surgery, SAS doctors and an RCS England Council member. The Board's purpose is to improve surgical outcomes for patients, advocate locally and support good practice and professional guidance. 
5. For more information, please contact the RCS England press office: telephone: 020 7869 6053/6054/6047; email:; out-of-hours media enquiries: 0207 869 6056.  


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