Belfast Telegraph

95-week hospital delay woman slams Stormont disarray

Grandmother questions whether MLAs would have to face 95-week delay

By Jill Goligher

A woman who has been told she must wait two years for an urgent hospital appointment fears that she may be dead before she has been officially diagnosed.

Karen Boucher (54), from the Ravenhill area of Belfast, also branded the health service waiting list 'a shambles', and asked if Stormont's MLAs would have to wait so long for an appointment.

The desperate grandmother is speaking out in today's Belfast Telegraph after being told she must wait 95 weeks for an "urgent" hospital appointment.

"I'm afraid I am going to die before I am even diagnosed," she said, adding that she does not believe the general public fully understands the seriousness of the challenges facing the health service in Northern Ireland.

Ms Boucher said she had undergone a private MRI scan.

On receiving the letter containing her results, she was required told she would have to return for an urgent appointment.

While she could afford an initial private appointment, she cannot afford any more, and is concerned that she may have ovarian cancer.

But she is now left feeling devastated that after being referred by her GP she has been told the earliest appointment she can get would be in 95 weeks.

Ms Boucher already feels so ill that she is in bed for long periods of time, and feels let down by the system, saying: "I have been in pain for the past five years and cannot get an urgent appointment. People are afraid of their doctors when they shouldn't be - they're normal people like you and me. The waiting list for the health service is a shambles."

Ms Boucher also queried whether an MLA would have to wait as long as her for an appointment.

"Stormont is in disarray, no politician would have to wait 95 weeks for a hospital appointment," she said. "I have waited and waited, who knows what the outcome is going to be? I already have other serious health issues so even going private isn't an option."

Karen initially paid £300 for a private appointment for tests but isn't in a position to pay for any further appointments.

The mother to a son, Karen fears she will not get to see her three grandchildren grow up.

She said: "I want to highlight this fact for elderly people. This country needs to provide a quality health service," she said. "Twenty eight years ago the health service saved my life but today, I don't have the trust in them that I did then. I need to entrust my life in their hands... all this waiting and who knows what more damage is going on inside my body?"

A Department of Health spokesman said that on December 31, 2016 there were 4,187 patients waiting for inpatient and day case admission within the gastroenterology specialty in Northern Ireland.

"The average waiting time for these patients was 12.7 weeks, with the longest wait being 92.2 weeks. The department regards excessive waiting times as totally unacceptable.

"Staff across the HSC continue to work incredibly hard to deliver high quality treatment and care within the resources available to the department.

"On average the HSC delivers 9,000 outpatient appointments, 2,600 inpatient/day case procedures and 31,000 diagnostic tests per week.

"The department's Elective Care Plan, published last month, sets out the department's approach to transform and modernise elective care services. The overriding ambition is to reduce waiting times and place elective care services on a more sustainable footing to meet the future demand from our population."

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