Therapy waiting lists are unacceptably long

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The Health Minister Michelle O’Neill says waiting lists for occupational therapists are “unacceptably long” after revealing there were 2,366 patients waiting for referrals in the Western Trust at the start of December and that one of these patients had been waiting for over a year.

“I am firmly of the view that the current waiting lists are unacceptably long,” said the Minister.

“However, unless we tackle the root causes this will remain the case, as we have a 20th century model delivering services for a 21st century population. This is having an increasingly negative impact on the quality and experience of care. The long term solution is the transformation of our health and social care system as outlined in Delivering Together. It is only in transforming the health and social care system and by implementing new models of care that we will be able to alleviate the pressures on our health and social care services, sustain improvements in waiting times and deliver better outcomes for patients,” she said.

She revealed the extent of the problem in response to a query from UUP MLA Ross Hussey. The longest waiting time for a therapy referral in the Trust was 60.6 weeks. There were 2,366 patients waiting for occupational therapist referrals on November 30 and 144 therapists were employed by the Trust.

“It is important to recognise HSC staff who, notwithstanding the structural issues, they continue to work incredibly hard and on average deliver 9,000 outpatient appointments, 2,600 inpatient/day case procedures and 31,000 diagnostic tests per week,” the Minister said.