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Boy told to wait year for tests on bleeding lump under eye

By Lisa Smyth

The father of a two-year-old boy was told his son would have to wait a year to see a hospital doctor to treat a lump growing under his eye, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.



Steven Phillips took his son Theo to his GP about the lump, who referred the youngster to a dermatologist.

When Mr Phillips did not receive an appointment he made a phonecall to the Causeway Hospital and was told the waiting time for a routine appointment with a skin specialist was 40 weeks.

As a result the GP sent another referral letter — this time asking the boy to be seen as a priority.

However, it then emerged the waiting time for an urgent dermatology appointment was 50 weeks — prompting Mr Stevens to pay £120 for his son to be seen privately.

Bosses at the Northern Health & Social Care Trust have now admitted patients requiring an urgent appointment with a dermatologist are currently waiting 55 weeks — blaming the delay on a lack of resources.

The worrying case highlights how some of the most vulnerable members of society are being failed by the current state of the health service.

Mr Phillips said: “It’s an absolute disgrace. Every time Theo knocked his hand against his eye this lump would start bleeding heavily, which was very upsetting for him.

“Then it would grow back bigger. This was happening a couple of times a week. When we didn’t hear anything from the hospital I rang and was told he would wait 40 weeks.

“When I found out he was going to wait almost a year to be seen, even as an urgent case, I paid for him to be seen privately.

“As soon as the dermatologist saw him she sent him straight to plastic surgeon. The lump was removed and he’s doing well now.”

Mr Phillips complained to the Northern Trust and received a letter from the head of acute services Valerie Jackson, who apologised for “inconvenience and distress” caused by the experience.

“I can only imagine how difficult this delay must have been for you all,” she said.

“I realise this is a totally unacceptable position.” A trust spokeswoman said: “Due to the very high demand for dermatology services the current waiting time for an urgent referral is 55 weeks.

“The trust is currently working with the Health and Social Care Board to reduce the waiting times. Two additional senior clinicians were recently appointed and further investment is under review to ensure waiting times can be dramatically reduced.

“We would like to apologise to the Phillips family for the inconvenience and distress caused,” she added.

Quotes

Dr Brian Patterson, a member of the British Medical Association’s GP committee in Northern Ireland, said: “There are three kinds of referrals open to a GP — routine, urgent for a condition that is making life difficult for the patient, and red flag, which is when the doctor suspects cancer.

“Routine appointments should be seen within nine weeks so you would like to think an urgent referral would be seen within a couple of weeks.

“The situation with waiting lists is ridiculous and it isn’t just in dermatology. Of course, it is easy to forget that behind the statistics of waiting times there are people suffering and in pain.

“We need to remember we are treating people, not things.”

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