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The size of the waiting list for audiology treatment in the Northern Health Trust area in Northern Ireland has been slammed by an MLA as "simply not good enough".
John Dallat MLA revealed that 885 people aged over 21 are on the waiting list for audiology treatment, with 21 of them having waited more than 21 weeks for an appointment, the Belfast Telegraph reports.
The longest wait of all has been 172 days.
Mr Dallat said: "Audiology is an important element of the health service and should be open and accessible to all people without delay.
"The number on the waiting list is alarmingly high and 21 weeks is too long a wait for an appointment where the outcome would hopefully be an improvement in the ability of people to hear and participate in conversation with others."
He claimed that the problem is one of resources, arguing that the current impasse that has seen the Stormont Assembly suspended means it has not been addressed in the way it normally would be if the institution was functioning.
Action on Hearing Loss NI has responded to the revelation by calling for action, noting that with many hearing problems a condition can deteriorate if there is a long wait for treatment.
Its Northern Ireland Director Jackie White called for the trust to take remedial measures "as a matter of urgency".
In response, the Northern Trust said it was aware of the growing waiting list and was taking steps to address the matter. This includes the recruitment of more audiology staff and holding extra clinics until the end of the year.
The aim of these measures is to bring waiting times back to the target of nine weeks.
Elsewhere in the UK, NHS audiology waiting times tend to be much shorter.
The most recent figures for England, covering July and published in August, showed the average waiting time was four weeks, with 95 per cent being seen within 14.2 weeks.
Written by James Puckle
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