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Health: Waiting Times

Volume 688: debated on Tuesday 23 January 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What inspection system they have in place to monitor National Health Service waiting lists in Northern Ireland and to ensure that hospital trusts are providing full and accurate information on waiting times; whether waiting times for initial consultant appointments are recorded separately from waiting times for treatment or surgery; and, if not, whether they will take steps to ensure that these statistics are recorded and published separately. [HL1179]

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety publishes official waiting list/times statistics on a quarterly basis. The publication includes:

out-patient waiting list/times, which comprise the number of patients waiting for their first out-patient appointment with a consultant, or a member of the consultant's team (or a locum in place for a member of the consultant's team); and

in-patient waiting list/times, which comprise the number of patients waiting for ordinary admission or daycase admission to hospital.

There are two distinct reporting systems in place for in-patient and out-patient waiting lists/times. Separate electronic reports providing the numbers of people waiting for in-patient admission and out-patient assessment are downloaded from patient administration systems (PAS) in each hospital by trust information staff. These provide information on the number of patients waiting for in-patient/daycase procedure and first out-patient assessment, together with an indication of how many months the patient has been waiting (in timebands) for each specialty. Validation checks are undertaken by these staff and information is then submitted to the Information and Analysis Directorate (IAD) in the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, where a further series of stringent validation procedures are undertaken prior to publication.

The quarterly waiting list/times bulletin is a National Statistics publication governed by the National Statistics code of practice and its associated protocols. The code and protocols require that procedures are in place to produce statistics that are relevant, have integrity, are of good quality and are accessible to the user. They are produced in the interests of all citizens by protecting confidentiality and balancing the needs of users and the burden on providers; they are also free from political interference.

The official waiting list bulletin is available at the DHSSPS website via the following link: www.dhsspsn _community_statistics.htm#waitinglists. Copies are also available in the Library. Official waiting list/times statistics for the quarter ending 31 December 2006 are due to be published on Thursday 1 March 2007.