Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Mother's fury at delay for MRI scan on 'blind' tot

Seven-month-old Ben McCrystal is waiting on an MRI scan
Seven-month-old Ben McCrystal is waiting on an MRI scan

The mother of a baby in need of an MRI scan to diagnose if he has any sight has spoken of her anger at facing an agonising nine-month wait for an appointment.

Amy McCrystal's son Ben was diagnosed as being blind at 12 weeks old.

The Belfast Telegraph reported in May that after further examination, experts at the Royal Victoria Hospital said there was a chance he could see, but needed a vital MRI brain scan to diagnose him properly.

However, a delay in installing a new scanner at the Children's Hospital – along with a growing waiting list – led to fears Ben may have to wait until next summer to undergo the procedure.

The trust insisted in May that Ben would have to wait just 26 weeks for the procedure.

In a letter written to her local MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who approached the trust on Mrs McCrystal's behalf, it said the earliest Ben will receive the scan is in December – nine months after he was first put on the waiting list.

The letter from the trust, received this week, stated: "I can advise that the expected date for Ben to receive his scan should be December.

"The trust is very sorry that the family have to wait this length of time for a scan, unfortunately this is due to the high demand for this specialist type of scan which requires a general anaesthetic and as a consequence takes longer to perform than other scans." It added that Ben was placed to the 'short notice' cancellations list and will be contacted before December should a cancellation arise.

Ben, who was born last December, was diagnosed with CVI – cortical visual impairment – but needs the MRI brain scan in order to give a proper diagnosis.

Amy (29), a mother-of-two from Lisburn, said she was left in limbo without knowing whether her son's sight was impaired.

"Having to wait this length of time to find out what is wrong with your baby is absolutely ridiculous.

"I'm not happy. Whoever runs the health service is not running it right."

A spokeswoman for the trust said: "We are sorry due to the demand for MRI scans that patients may have to wait but we are unable to discuss any child's treatment or care. No appointment date has been agreed but we are happy to meet with Mrs McCrystal to discuss this further."

Private clinics cannot offer Ben the procedure as he has to undergo a general anaesthetic.

The RVH for Sick Children is the only specialist children's hospital in the UK that doesn't have an MRI scanner.

This was despite a three-year fundraising appeal to buy a scanner for the hospital spearheaded by charities and the public.

It was heralded a success when it raised £2m, and the Department of Health has pledged to inject a further £2.75m into the project.

The scanner won't be installed until next March.

BACKGROUND

Amy McCrystal's son Ben underwent an electronic brain/eye test in the Royal and was diagnosed as being blind at 12 weeks old. After further examination, experts said there was a chance he could see, but needed an MRI brain scan. The Belfast Trust said it would take 26 weeks for an appointment. In a letter to her MP Jeffrey Donaldson the trust said the scan could take place in December. The trust said no appointment date has been set but is happy to meet Mrs McCrystal.

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