Belfast Telegraph

On Thursday Sylvia (84), who lives in constant pain, had been waiting two years for surgery. On Friday, thanks to the Telegraph, she got a date for an operation

By Victoria O'Hara

The Belfast Trust has apologised to an 84-year-old woman "living in constant pain" who waited nearly two years for surgery.

Sylvia Nelson-Blake from Banbridge, who is in pain "24/7", claimed her consultant said sorry "again and again" when he explained to her a lack of beds led to the recent delay in having the surgical procedure. Sylvia suffers from spondylosis, a condition that affects the neck.

She discovered yesterday - the same day the Belfast Telegraph contacted the trust about the situation - she will finally have the procedure next Tuesday.

The pensioner explained she was referred two years ago by her GP to see the consultant and was told she would need surgery. However, earlier this week she was informed there were still no beds available for her.

"I've had the pain for a few years and it took quite a time before I could even see the consultant because of the waiting lists then. Now the pain is affecting my arms and my hands - all coming from my neck."

She explained she had been treated for pain relief and for a number of other medical problems including arthritis during that time, but still required the procedure for the problem in her neck.

She added: "I saw the consultant again this week in the City Hospital for an appointment but all he could keep saying to me was: 'I'm so sorry, I'm so ashamed I haven't a bed to offer you'.

"I just said: 'Don't say that on my account, it's not your fault'. I'm 84 and I think the situation is dire - not just for myself, but for others.

"Steroid injections were mentioned because maybe that would be easier to go home with. I know the staff are under so much pressure and to see that lovely gentleman put in that position; I really felt for him. No consultant should be put in that position."

Trusts face tough financial and staffing problems and waiting lists are growing across Northern Ireland. Latest figures showed 51,693 people were waiting for inpatient treatment last September.

Ministerial targets, however, say no patient should wait longer than 26 weeks. And after being contacted by the trust yesterday telling her the procedure is scheduled for next week, Sylvia said she "couldn't believe it".

"It will make a considerable difference to my life," she said.

"I'm sure there are many people older and in worse condition than me and are still waiting."

A spokeswoman for the trust said: "Belfast Health and Social Care Trust wish to apologise that Ms Nelson-Blake has had to wait longer than we would have liked for her procedure.

"The procedure which Ms Nelson-Blake requires is not an orthopaedic procedure and does not normally require the patient to be treated as an in-patient. Ms Nelson-Blake's more complex needs require an admission into the hospital overnight. Unfortunately her recently planned admission was postponed due to an increase in the number of patients requiring unscheduled emergency admission.

"The trust has been in touch with the patient directly to offer her a rescheduled date for her procedure on Tuesday, February 3.

"The trust would like to again apologise for the delay."

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