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Northern Ireland women with endometriosis in eight-year wait for diagnosis


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Endometriosis UK said women here have been forced to give up work, while for some, the pain of the condition means they are unable to walk or look after their personal hygiene. (Lynne Cameron/PA)

Endometriosis UK said women here have been forced to give up work, while for some, the pain of the condition means they are unable to walk or look after their personal hygiene. (Lynne Cameron/PA)

PA

Endometriosis UK said women here have been forced to give up work, while for some, the pain of the condition means they are unable to walk or look after their personal hygiene. (Lynne Cameron/PA)

Women in Northern Ireland living with endometriosis face an average wait of longer than eight years to be diagnosed with the agonising condition, a charity has said.

Endometriosis UK said women here have been forced to give up work, while for some, the pain of the condition means they are unable to walk or look after their personal hygiene.

Lengthy waiting times for treatment are also stopping women from starting families, the charity has warned.

It has called for an urgent overhaul of services after it emerged there is only one endometriosis specialist surgeon working in Northern Ireland, with 324 women known to be waiting for surgery.

However, the actual number of patients languishing on a waiting list for an operation to help ease their suffering is likely to be significantly higher.

In response to an Assembly question from Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw, three out of the five health trusts were unable to say how many women are currently waiting for surgery for endometriosis.

According to the trusts, 239 endometriosis Belfast Trust patients were on the waiting list for an operation at the end of March, while 85 patients were on the waiting list in the South Eastern Trust.

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The Northern Trust said the information could only be provided at a disproportionate cost, the Southern Trust could not collate the information within the deadline, and the Western Trust said endometriosis patients are added to the gynaecology waiting list.

Faye Farthing from Endometriosis UK said: "In Northern Ireland, it takes on average a shocking eight and a half years to diagnose endometriosis. During this time, not only can the disease worsen, but it can also have a huge impact on someone's mental health.

"The lack of access to specialist endometriosis services in Northern Ireland is also of huge concern.

"Even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, people were experiencing incredibly long waiting times, with some waiting over two years for an appointment with a specialist.

"Many are in debilitating pain yet are not able to access surgery. This is leaving those in Northern Ireland without the right access to specialist support and it is having a huge impact on their physical and mental health.

"The Northern Ireland Assembly must take action to ensure that everyone with endometriosis in Northern Ireland has access to the right support at the right time, before even more women are left robbed of the future they deserve."

Ms Bradshaw said: "Women have every right to feel badly let down and we must now do everything in our power to prioritise endometriosis and reform the system to deliver the right treatment at the right time and stop lives being disrupted in such a tragic way."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said specialist nurses have been appointed in the Belfast and Western trusts, while the Belfast Trust has said it is planning to submit a business case this financial year to establish a regional endometriosis centre.


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