03 October 2008
Northern Ireland's health service is making progress towards meeting targets for improving the population's health, according to auditor general John Dowdall.
In a report published on October 1, The performance of the health service in Northern Ireland, the NI Audit Office said that between 1981 and 2005, life expectancy had increased from 69.2 years to 76.1 years for men and from 75.5 years to 81 years for women. But it added that the improvement in more deprived areas had been only fractional.
Fewer people are dying from cancer and coronary heart disease, and Northern Ireland has the lowest death rate from stroke in the UK, the report said. Obesity had declined since 2003/04 from 5.7% of the population but was 'still high' at 5.1% in 2005/06. 'The proportion of obese children is a serious concern for the health service,' it adds.
Waiting times for treatment from GPs and hospitals were decreasing, however. At the end of March 2008, only 59 outpatients were waiting more than 13 weeks for a first hospital appointment.
Once the figures had been finalised, it was also expected that all GP appointments would have been met within the targeted 48 hours.