Sustained progress on reducing Northern Ireland's hospital waiting lists is achievable, Department of Health Permanent Secretary Peter May has emphasised.
Mr May said the latest waiting time statistics showed some signs of improvement in relation to waiting time targets.
"The overall figures, of course, remain entirely unacceptable. But some progress has been made and, while limited, it is nevertheless welcome," he stated.
The Permanent Secretary continued: "This remains an extremely tough time for our health service and the Department has been very open and frank on the scale of current budgetary pressures.
"At the same time, we have to remember the great work being carried out every day to provide care across Northern Ireland. Patients and their families remain fulsome in their praise of staff and rightly so.
"It's also important to acknowledge the intensive ongoing work to rebuild services post pandemic and increase activity rates across the system.
"We can see evidence of this in the latest published statistics in relation to the targets set for waiting times.
"Fixing our waiting lists will be a long-term and laborious task. Our current budgetary situation will be an impediment, but we must not lose hope or sight of what needs to be done.
"My thanks go all staff working so hard to improve the situation."
The latest waiting time statistics are published on the Department of Health website.
Statistics in relation to targets include:
Inpatient and Day Case Admission
77.4% (94,305) of patients were waiting more than 13 weeks to be admitted for treatment at March 2023, a lower proportion than that at 31 December 2022 (78.0%, 97,659) and at 31 March 2022 (81.3%, 102,164).
52.9% (64,513) of patients were waiting more than 52 weeks for either an inpatient or day case admission, compared with 53.7% (67,164) at 31 December 2022, and 56.4% (70,871) at 31 March 2022.
81.3% (326,241) of patients were waiting more than 9 weeks for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment, a lower proportion than 83.8% (330,723) at 31 December 2022 and 82.7% (309,165) at 31 March 2022.