Over £30 million has been committed to try and reduce hospital waiting lists in Northern Ireland, it has been confirmed today (Thursday).
This major new investment has been announced by the Department of Health and involve the use of £30million from the £100 million health and social care transformation pot made available for 2018/19.
Details were given today at a briefing attended by a cross-party group of MLAs at Castle Buildings, Stormont.
The £30 million investment will be targeted at inpatient and outpatient waiting times, with priority given to the most urgent cases and reducing the longest waits.
More details on the full £100 million transformation fund allocations will be made public shortly, but the key aspects will be investment in the establishment of elective care centres – stand-alone day surgery units that will provide an important part of the long-term transformation solution to waiting times; supporting innovations in hospitals; the development of enhanced primary care services in GP clinics; and initiatives in staff training, social care and countering diabetes.
Richard Pengelly, Department of Health permanent secretary, said: “The long term answer to waiting times and other major challenges remains transformation of the health and social care system.
“However, recognising that the transformation vision represents a 10-year agenda, we must also acknowledge that immediate action is needed on our unacceptable waiting times.
“The current waiting times are a consequence of rising demand for services set against an outdated HSC system that is no longer able to meet this demand. Transformation means organising our services more effectively – delivering more in primary care settings and reforming hospital services.
“To deliver transformation, we also need to increase public trust in the system and relieve some of the pressure on our staff.
“The Delivering Together and Bengoa reports both endorsed ‘stabilisation’ through reducing waiting lists. Today’s announcement is an important step towards that goal. Further investment will be required in subsequent years to prevent any progress made being lost.”
MLAs at the department’s briefing were also told of a challenging overall financial situation facing health and social care provision in the coming year.
The recently announced health budget allocation represents a 2.6% uplift for 2018/19, compared to its full budget for 2017/18.
This allocation leaves a shortfall in relation to the projected spend required to maintain existing services.
To address this shortfall, further allocations are required through in-year monitoring and/or savings measures.