Anger at removal of SWAH rheumatology

FERMANAGH patients have said they were “fuming” to find out rheumatology services had been removed from the SWAH without the Trust informing them.

Around 400 local patients were on the books of the service – which deals with chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis – at the Enniskillen hospital. The Western Trust has confirmed this service has been temporarily moved from the SWAH to the Omagh

Hospital due to a locum consultant leaving their post at the SWAH.


The issue only came to light after a local patient called to enquire why they had not received their regular appointment with the service.

Speaking to the Herald, the Fermanagh patient explained due to their extremely painful condition they require weekly home treatment, get their blood taken every three weeks, and require frequent checks by a consultant. When they called the SWAH to find out why they had not received their usual appointment, they were informed the service had been moved to Omagh.

“Nobody knew. People were waiting on appointments and didn’t know,” they said. “I wouldn’t have been able to blow the whistle on this only I called up to ask about my appointment myself.”

Praising the staff at the SWAH, and their former consultant Dr Awan who they described as “fantastic” and “unbelievably brilliant”, the patient said moving the service would now cause them great difficulties, not least because they had yet to receive a new appointment in Omagh.

“Where I live I only had to come into our hospital, and I was seeing the top man,” they said, explaining their condition made driving difficult.

“I’m independent, I like to do my own thing, but I will now have to get somebody to take me to Omagh, or pay them.”

Questioning why the Trust had not been trying “hammer and tongs” to recruit a new consultant before the previous doctor left, the patient said a letter from the Trust simply explaining the service had been moved “would have meant so much.”


Other local patients have since expressed similar feelings, with one stating they too had been waiting on a routine appointment that never came. Another said they found out from another patient at work, and was now waiting months for a new appointment which they said was “disgraceful.”

Another said they were “fuming” to find out they would now have to travel.

When contacted by the Herald, the Trust stressed the removal of the service was not related to the suspension of emergency surgery, and was due to the consultant leaving. It said patients had not been informed of the move as it “was a temporary change dependent on availability of consultant cover.”

“Rheumatology service provision to SWAH patients continued through an interim outreach model however located on the Omagh Hospital Site,” said a spokesman.

“It is ongoing Trust practice to align service demand to consultant capacity to equalise and manage the length of time waiting for a first Outpatient appointment across the WHSCT area – however we continue to promote the principles of care “closer to home” so it is not uncommon for patients to be asked to travel for an Outpatient appointment which is deemed reasonable in accordance with the Integrated Elective Access protocols.”

They added, “Staff in the Northern Sector of the Trust have been facilitating outreach clinics on the Omagh Hospital site to mitigate the impact on patients in the Southern Sector of the Trust.”

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