PENSIONERS in Fermanagh who are waiting years for life-changing surgery could die before they reach the operating table due to “unacceptable”delays, it has been claimed.
Shocking new GP figures obtained by the Fermanagh Herald show that patients in need of urgent surgery within the Western Trust are now waiting up to five years for vital operations.
For general surgery, it’s a two and a half year wait to see a consultant followed by three more years before the operation takes place. General surgery wait times are 132 weeks for an appointment with a consultant followed by a further 147 weeks waiting to be called for a procedure. It’s a similarly grim picture for those awaiting orthopaedic operations with a 147 week wait for both the consultant’s appointment and finding a surgery spot – a delay of five and a half years.
The figures come as Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire sets out legislation to prepare Stormont’s budget for the rest of the financial year if no government is in place by the latest talks deadline of June 29th. Indicative figure include a mere 3% increase in cash for health spending on the key issues of acute hospitals, elective surgery and GP services.
Local GP Dr Brendan O’Hare says that while the NHS is at breaking point, the waiting list figures show elective surgery is already broken.
“The stark reality is that any patient I refer today is facing a five year delay to be operated on. Shockingly this means that elderly people in their late 70’s with chronic hip arthritis will either be dead or so feeble that they won’t benefit from the long-awaited surgery.”
The doctor says most of his time is being spent writing letters to try to speed up referrals at the expense of other patients in desperate need.
“The impact on GPs is that patients are coming into already busy surgeries looking for letters to expedite the referrals. It’s a complete waste of their time and mine because there are hundreds of these letters which are simply being ignored.”
Dr O’Hare says the lack of political leadership at Stormont is only adding to the problem.
“This crisis will not be sorted out by GPs or individual Trusts but will require decision making at the highest political level to address it. The stark reality at the present time is that an elderly person looking at these waiting lists will not live long enough to avail of their required surgery.”
In a statement, the Health and Social Care Board said ensuring that patients have access to safe, quality and timely care remains a key priority.
“As demand for elective care services currently exceeds funded health service capacity regrettably it is inevitable that waiting times will increase as has been seen over the last few years. Increased demand is being driven by many factors including the increasing older population, higher patient expectations, improvements in technology and a wider range of available procedures.
“Due to financial pressures, the HSC has been unable to undertake the previous volumes of additional activity to meet the gap between demand for services and funded capacity and as a result, waiting times have grown.”
The spokesman added: “HSC Trusts continue to prioritise the most urgent patients to ensure they are seen and treated as quickly as possible and the HSCB is working with Trusts to maximise the activity that can be delivered from existing capacity. It is clear that the current model of delivering elective care services is not sustainable given the continued increased demand.”
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Posted: 6:35 pm May 1, 2017