Almost six in 10 surgeons in Northern Ireland have had to carry out more complex surgery because of a patient being on a waiting list for an extended period, including for more advanced cancers, research reveals.
The survey by the Royal College of Surgeons, in which roughly a third of surgeons registered in Northern Ireland took part, also found 93% of surgeons said there were staff in their trust unable to operate because there were not enough beds to admit patients.
Nearly two-thirds (64%) had to cancel operations at the last minute because of issues such as a lack of ward beds, operating theatre capacity or staff.
Waiting times figures for Northern Ireland show that of the 90,514 patients waiting to be admitted to hospital for either day case or inpatient treatment in December 2019, almost a third (27,090) are waiting more than a year for their admission. This represents an increase of 26% compared to December 2018.
By comparison, the latest figures for England indicate that just 1,467 patients waited more than 52 weeks’ from referral to treatment.
Mark Taylor, NI director of the RCS, said increasing demand, reduced capacity and budgetary constraints have been highlighted as potential causes for waiting times in Northern Ireland being the worst in the UK.
“The experience and expertise of surgeons should be utilised to develop a sustainable, joined-up plan to address the waiting list backlog and ensure that transformation of the system ensures we are not in this position in the future,” he added.