Northern Ireland outpatient waiting lists 100 times more than England’s?

CLAIM: 105,486 people were waiting over a year for a consultant-led outpatient appointment in Northern Ireland, which is 100 times more than in England, with its population 30 times greater.

CONCLUSION: ACCURATE. 105,486 and 1,089 people were waiting over a year for a consultant-led outpatient appointment in Northern Ireland and England, respectively. The estimated population of Northern Ireland and England is 55,977,178 and 1,881,600, respectively.

On 7 September 2019, Mark H. Durkan — a Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) politician — stated: “The population of England is 55 million and at the end of June 1,089 people were waiting over a year for a consultant-led outpatient appointment. The population of Northern Ireland is 1.8 million and at the end of June, 105,486 people were waiting over a year for a consultant-led outpatient appointment. Our waiting lists are 100 times bigger than a country with a population 30 times ours.”

The 2019/20 Ministerial target relating to outpatient waiting times stated that by March 2020, at least 50% of patients should wait no longer than nine weeks for a first (consultant-led) outpatient appointment, with no patient waiting longer than a year — a target Mr Durkan has deemed “wildly unattainable”, given the current circumstances.

England waiting times

On 8 August 2019, the National Health Service (NHS) in England released their waiting times data for June 2019, which shows detailed information on referral to treatment (RTT) waiting times for consultant-led elective care. Previous figures and details of RTT data is available.

The NHS figures show that as of 30 June 2019, the number of RTT patients waiting to start treatment at the end of June 2019 was 4.4 million patients. For patients waiting to start treatment at the end of June 2019, the median waiting time was 7.5 weeks. The 92nd percentile waiting time was 22.4 weeks (i.e. 92% of patients had been waiting less than 22.4 weeks at the
end of the reporting period and 8% of patients had been waiting more than 22.4 weeks).

Of the 4.4 million RTT patients waiting to start treatment, 1,089 were waiting more than 52 weeks.

Northern Ireland waiting times

On 29 August 2019, the Department of Health in Northern Ireland released their quarterly “Waiting Times Statistics”, which shows detailed information on the number of people waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, a diagnostic test, and inpatient or day case treatment at hospitals in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Health (DOH) figures show that as of 30 June 2019, a total of 299,436 patients were waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment. This is 3.7% (10,682) more than at 31 March 2019 (288,754) and 8.5% (23,552) more than at 30 June 2018 (275,884).

Over a third of patients — 35.2% (105,450) — were waiting more than a year for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, an increase of 5.3% on the same quarter last year (when there were 88,598 patients).

Northern Ireland and England population

On 30 June 2018, Northern Ireland’s population was estimated to be 1,881,600 million people. England’s population was estimated to be 55,977,178, as stated in a report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Summary

The public statement by Mark H. Durkan made four claims in its argument that waiting lists in Northern Ireland “are 100 times bigger than a country with a population 30 times ours”:

  1. The population of England is 55 million
  2. As of end June 2019, there were 1,089 people waiting over 52 weeks for a consultant-led appointment for treatment
  3. The population of Northern Ireland is 1.8 million
  4. As of end June 2019, there were 105,486 people waiting over 52 weeks for a consultant-led appointment for treatment

The four claims are accurate, as explained above.

The ratio between Northern Ireland and England of those waiting over 52 weeks for a consultant-led appointment for treatment is 96.87:1. The ratio between England and Northern Ireland of their estimated populations is 29.75:1.

The final claim that “waiting lists” of those waiting over 52 weeks for a consultant-led appointment to treatment is 100 times greater between England and Northern Ireland, with a population in England that is 30 times greater than Northern Ireland, is accurate.

Image: Photo by Katarzyna BIALASIEWICZ used by license Dreamstime.com