Tyrone MLA says ‘patients being failed’ as 1,596 wait over 13 weeks for medical appointments

Some Tyrone waiting lists are the worst in the North
Some Tyrone waiting lists are the worst in the North

A total of 1,596 people have been waiting more than 13 weeks for specialist treatment at local hospitals including South Tyrone and Craigavon Area.

The local waiting lists for speech and therapy, podiatry and dietician services were the worst in the North, according to the latest figures released by the Health and Social Care Board.

Other Trusts are capable of delivering a much better service and the local trusts need to look at those who are out-performing them in this area - Patsy McGlone

Worryingly, the figures show massive variations in waiting lists across Northern Ireland, with 610 patients waiting more than 13 weeks for speech and therapy in the local trust area, while the next highest figure of 429 was in the Western Trust.

The discrepancy was more stark when it came to podiatry with 528 people in the Southern Trust waiting more than 13 weeks, compared to a total of just 6 in the rest of Northern Ireland.

The figures paint a grim picture of thousands of patients suffering in silence as they languish on waiting lists. No patient in Northern Ireland is supposed to wait more than 15 weeks for an outpatient appointment, according to government targets.

But as the crisis in the health service deepens thousands of people across Northern Ireland have been waiting almost four months just to get a first appointment.

Fears have been raised that waiting lists for appointments in local hospitals are spiralling out of control.

SDLP Councillor Sharon McAleer said: ”The waiting times for assessment by Allied Health Professionals in the Southern Trust Area are unacceptable.

“The figures highlight the urgent need for funding and an increase in staffing levels to respond to patients needs and deliver high quality service.

“It is not cost effective to have such long waiting times for first assessments, when earlier intervention could improve the overall outcome for patients and possibly reduce their treatment time.

“It has been well documented the need to reduce health inequalities between geographical areas and these figures are again highlighting this problem.”

Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone said: “The numbers represent individual patients who are in need of health care and who are being failed by the Trust responsible to deliver that care.

“Other Trusts are capable of delivering a much better service and the local trusts need to look at those who are out-performing them in this area. Best practice must be shared to improve health care across trust areas. These figures reveal that the growing waiting lists across the north hide a regional discrepancy

between trusts that is completely unacceptable.

The details emerged after Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly asked the Minister for Health Jim Wells how many people were on a waiting list for a first assessment by each Allied Health Profession, in each programme of care in the Southern Trust.

A spokesperson for the Southern Trust said: “At the end of February 2015, there were approximately 3,700 people being managed on a waiting list for Physiotherapy across the whole of the Southern Trust area.

“Whilst this number may appear large, it is to be expected that a service that accepts and treats approximately 30,000 patients per year, will at any point in time be managing a waiting list of this size. The majority of patients are seen within the regionally agreed waiting time of nine weeks, although fluctuations in demand can mean that on occasions, this time is exceeded. The Trust is currently participating in a regional review of all Allied Health Professions (AHPs) capacity & demand led by The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB).

“This exercise is reviewing current staffing levels, referral numbers/trends as well as referral criteria and the arrangements in place to ensure that patients are seen as soon as possible with waiting times kept to a minimum.”