Backstops were created in waiting lists by the Trust in conjunction with the Health & Social Care Board, this allowed the trust to over run and miss targets without fear of reprimand.
According to most recent data (1st April 2012 4th Jan 2013) the Northern Trust have sent 2,426 Daycase/inpatient to the private sector and 12,889 outpatients to the private sector, in total a 15, 315 patients.
The current Ministerial target for daycase/inpatients in that 50% of patients should be treated within 13 weeks and for outpatients 50% of patients should wait no longer than 9 weeks for an appointment.
These targets were reduced at the start of the new Assembly term in 2011, previously targets were (reference, pages; 46, 47: NHSCT):
● No patients should be waiting longer than 13 weeks for inpatient or daycase treatment
● No patients should wait longer than 9 weeks for a 1st outpatient appointment
These targets have reduced over the years to try and allow for poor performance within the Trust but even with this drop in the Trust are failing.
According to the performance report 1,446 patients are still waiting over 13 weeks for treatment in daycase/inpatient with a further 3,642 patient still waiting over 9 weeks for the first outpatient appointment. Other areas are also affected by poor performance:
● Diagnostics 1,484 patients are waiting over the 9 week target for cardiac
● Allied Health Professionals 201 patients are waiting over the 9 week target for occupational therapy
The question that must be answered is not why are 15,000+ patients being sent into the private sector to beat waiting lists, it is why have services not increased to meet the demand of the population within the NHSCT. The Ulster Hospital recently had to cancel up to 30 operations a day due to lack of capacity, now we see the NHSCT have to make more use of the private sector.
This is yet another failure by the NHSCT managers to plan for the future and fully deliver, these extra sessions are specifically to beat waiting lists, waiting lists that only developed due to lack of capacity within the Trust to meet the
needs of its residents. This is directly realted tot he clousre of services at the Mid Ulster
For the year 2011/12 the Northern Trust spent £116,435,000 (reference, page 41 link) purchasing care from non government bodies, the private sector, while some of this is spent on nursing and residential homes for elderly patients some of this pot is also spent on sending patients to private hospitals. As of yet the Trust have not released how much the contracts for this extra private care is costing the taxpayer.
Serious concerns must be raised within the Northern Health & Social Care Trust regarding Outpatient appointments in which the Trust had to cancel, ( reference, page 20 link) for the year 2011/12 the NHSCT cancelled 5,976 out patient appointments as no consultant was available, on top of this consultants themselves cancelled 17,113 appointments.