More than 6,000 people are waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment in the neurology specialty, according to figures supplied to East Derry SDLP MLA John Dallat.
Just over half of the patients are in the Belfast Trust Area, while more than 1,000 are in the Western Trust Area, according to the statistics supplied in a written response to Mr Dallat from the health minister.
Mr Dallat said the figures do not paint an overall picture of the situation because they reflect only those people waiting on a first appointment as outpatients.
“The numbers of people waiting for review appointments who have been diagnosed with a neurological illness are not available,” said Mr Dallat.
“Again we do not know for how long people are waiting, but I know from my constituency office inquiries some have been waiting for several months and perhaps a lot longer.
“Clearly this is a serious issue which is impacting severely on people’s lives with no apparent solution in sight. It means that they must live with the anxiety of not knowing if there is something seriously wrong with their health. For many it means they cannot drive until they get a clean bill of health from a neurologist and that can have a serious impact on their livelihood and the ability to visit family and friends. For those facing very challenging conditions in the future it means that precious time is lost because the system is not fit for purpose.
“People need to know their legal rights and all information relating to waiting times should be readily available on the web and they should be able to make comparisons with other regions such as Scotland, England and Wales. Above all the strategies, whatever they are should be published so that patients are better informed of what is happening or as I suspect what is not happening because there is serious underfunding of neurological conditions.”