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Northern Ireland health crisis: 'Situation getting out of hand... politicians need to step in now'

Stephen Keery: Waiting over 14 months for MRI results. Southern Trust

Stephen Keery
Stephen Keery

By Claire O'Boyle

Stephen Keery (42) has had epilepsy since he was a child. For almost 30 years, his condition lay dormant but, at 39, the father-of-five from Craigavon had a major seizure.

An MRI scan followed, and he was due to have the results at an appointment in September 2018.

However, he is still waiting - and in September this year was told the wait for a neurology appointment could be as long as 140 weeks.

"It's incredibly frustrating," said Stephen, who works in International Learning Development.

"At the beginning the care was great, and I seemed to get all the interventions quite quickly. But the epilepsy nurse I had at the start went off at the beginning of 2017, and since then I've struggled with access.

"Even with the 140-week time-frame, it's still not clear, because I don't know if they meant from December last year when my GP followed it up, or 140 weeks since September just gone when I followed it up again myself. The lack of clarity is very stressful."

Stephen explained he had to cancel an initial appointment in 2018 because of work commitments abroad, and on the morning of a rescheduled one that September he suffered a seizure and was unable to get there in time.

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"It turned out they discharged me," he said.

"It was only when my GP followed it up three months later that we found out I'd been discharged.

"I continue to have seizures, mostly at night time, and the appointment is supposed to give me some clarification about the results of the MRI with a specialist at Craigavon Area Hospital who can advise me on what exactly I should be doing."

Stephen has had to surrender his driving licence, and now needs to take public transport. When travelling overseas for work, he is increasingly anxious about his health.

"The situation is getting out of hand now, not just for me but for everyone on these huge waiting lists," he said.

"Our politicians need to step in and sort it out."

A Southern Trust spokesperson said: "We very much regret the increasing waiting times being experienced by our patients.

"Demand for hospital services across Northern Ireland continues to grow beyond the capacity that is currently available.

"We continue to prioritise and treat patients by the urgency of their illness in line with extant guidance."

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