Speaking in response to the latest waiting list statistics released by the Department of Health, Dr Anne Carson, deputy chair of BMA’s Northern Ireland Council, said: “This rise is absolutely no surprise to us and is beyond frustrating for health service staff and patients alike....

“It’s no secret that our waiting lists are the worst in the UK and growing, yet our politicians continue to do nothing to resolve this. We are now approaching another busy winter period and morale among doctors is at an all-time low. No doctor wants to work in a system, hospital or specialty that is under so much pressure, where the issues seem overwhelming; it’s not fair on doctors, health service staff and it’s certainly not fair on the patients."

Dr Carson reiterated calls for politicians to act to save the country’s health and social care service “before it’s too late”.

“The decisions needed to take forward the transformation outlined in the Bengoa review can only happen with a functioning assembly in place,” she said.

“It’s time they acted now before we are past the point of no return.”

Dr Carson said reform to restrictive and unfair pensions taxation for senior doctors was also having impact on waiting lists stats.

“Many local senior doctors are already taking steps to mitigate against these unfair punitive tax bills they have been receiving for taking on additional work and this includes waiting list initiatives,” said Dr Carson.

“Senior doctors are committed to working to reduce escalating waiting lists but do not want to incur crippling financial penalties for doing so. This issue needs addressed urgently through tax reform and scrapping of the tapered annual allowance. With that in mind, I call on the Department of Health to make local changes to pension taxation urgently, as is already happening in the other UK nations.”