88% of those on healthcare waiting lists feel forgotten – Ombudsman report finds systemic maladministration

An Ombudsman report released today has found that the significant and repeated failures to properly update patients on healthcare waiting lists in Northern Ireland  amounted to ‘systemic maladministration’, and in many cases had a detrimental impact on the health and wellbeing of those waiting.

Commenting on the findings, Ombudsman Margaret Kelly said:

“This investigation has found a waiting list system which is in disarray and which is having an adverse impact on those waiting to receive care. We found that many people placed on a waiting list received no communication at all to tell them if they were on a list, whether they were deemed routine or urgent, and when they could expect to be treated.

Despite there being a Department of Health procedure since 2006 that Trusts have been required to follow, we found they often did not, and there was no one agreed approach not only across Trusts but within Trusts. We also found the Departmental procedure had not been updated in ten years despite waiting lists increasing exponentially.”

Acknowledging the increasing financial and other pressures faced by the Trusts, she added;

“I understand that the healthcare system is still recovering from the impact of Covid and that frontline health staff are working incredibly hard to provide care in a difficult situation, but it is clear that the issue of increasing waiting lists has been ongoing for close to a decade. It is even more important in the context of our lengthy waiting lists that people have the information they need to either ‘wait well’ or make informed choices.

On the basis of repeated failures in communication in many parts of the system, I make an overall finding of systemic maladministration, and would urge the Department to work more cohesively with the Trusts, GPs and patient representatives to address the need for improvement.

I have made a significant number of recommendations and welcome the early acknowledgement by Trusts of the need for improvement, as well as the recent launch by the Department of the My Waiting Time website. I will continue to work with both Trusts and the Department of Health to ensure these recommendations are put in place.”

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