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More than 300,000 people in Northern Ireland are waiting to see a consultant.

The figure is an all-time high for Northern Ireland and for across the UK.

The Department of Health figures are stark – 306,180 people are now waiting to see a consultant for the first time.

That is 8% more than this time last year. For the past decade, those on the front line have been warning of the crisis that is now engulfing some local services.

Despite the new elective care centres set up to treat cataracts, an additional 1,263 patients are still waiting to be seen.

Insufficient funding, poor workforce planning and the lack of government have all contributed to the problem.

Last week, the independent think tank the Nuffield Trust told the BBC that parts of NI’s health care system have already collapsed.

Responding to Thursday’s statistics, Margaret Carr, of Cancer Research UK, said health service staff were working incredibly hard, but workforce shortages in Northern Ireland were contributing to these lengthy delays.

“Unless we see action, this is a problem that’s set to get worse because, as the population ages, the number of people with cancer will increase,” she said.

“If we’re to diagnose more cancers at an early stage and improve survival, a cancer workforce plan is urgently needed.”


The Department of Health reiterated its apology over Northern Ireland’s waiting times.

In a statement, it said: “The solutions, however, are extremely challenging. They require sustained investment to address backlogs and build our workforce, as well as the radical reshaping of services.”

The department said that, since 2014, additional funding to help bridge the gap between the increased demand for care and the system’s capacity to deal with it had been “in much shorter supply”.

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