12,602 on hospital lists for more than 18 months
The Government is still failing to meet the target to have no public patient waiting more than 18 months to see a specialist or have surgery, new figures reveal.
Waiting list figures for the end of August, released by the National Treatment Purchase Fund, show 11,234 people face delays of at least 18 months to be seen by a specialist at an outpatient clinic.
And 1,368 are waiting beyond 18 months for surgery in a public hospital. This is despite promises the 18-month deadline would be reached by the end of June.
Although thousands have benefited from a recent "blitz" on waiting lists, which has included the expensive outsourcing of some work to private hospitals, the toll of long-waiters remains disappointing.
There is concern that more headway was not made in clearing the longest-waiting people during the summer months, when hospitals are traditionally under less pressure due to the lack of patients suffering from respiratory illnesses.
The hospitals are now braced for another escalation in overcrowding as patients in emergency departments need admission to a ward, leading to the cancellation of non-urgent surgery.
The Government has promised that nobody would be waiting for an outpatient appointment or surgery for more than 15 months at the end of the year but this target now looks unlikely to be met.
The breakdown shows 32,375 are waiting for an outpatient appointment between 12 and 15 months. And another 22,768 have been in the queue for 15 to 18 months.
There were 4,872 waiting between a year and 15 months for surgery at the end of August.
And another 3,337 were on waiting lists for between 15-18 months. Ear, nose and throat surgery has the biggest queue.