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Our two year waits for treatment

Patients open up about their health service delays on our Facebook page

By Victoria O'Hara

Patients have revealed how they have been left waiting for more than two years for procedures in hospitals across Northern Ireland as waiting lists have hit "crisis point".

The response comes after latest figures revealed that a shocking 400,000 people were on lists for either a first outpatient appointment, a diagnostic test, an integrated clinical assessment or an inpatient appointment.

The total number of people waiting for a first outpatient appointment at the end of September 2015 was 230,625.

There are a further 12,818 waiting for a clinical assessment, 90,643 waiting for a diagnostic service and 62,697 waiting for inpatient admission, while the number of people who are waiting for an outpatient appointment has soared by 50% in a year.

Since our story yesterday, readers have revealed their own experiences of being caught up in the waiting list system.

Posting on the Belfast Telegraph Facebook page, Mark Anderson from Carrickfergus said: "Yes. I've waited two years for a procedure to be carried out in the City Hospital, only to be told I would need to go to Enniskillen for it instead. If I don't, then I would be put to the back of the queue, potentially waiting another two years. When I told them I don't drive, they were less than sympathetic, again stating that if I don't go Enniskillen I would be at the end of the queue."

Matt Cooke said he had to go private for back surgery twice in the last few years,

"The alternative was wait two years for even the chance of surgery, while my business goes under and people lose jobs. I wish I could opt out of the NHS; I'm a big fan in general, but the waiting lists have become a farce."

Lyndsey Michelle Kirkpatrick said: "Yes, my daughter is currently waiting since may for ENT (ear, nose and throat), they are saying it could be May next year before she's seen."

Health Minister Simon Hamilton has said he is confident that last week's funding announcement of £48m will "kick-start" the process of getting the waiting times back to an "acceptable position".

SDLP Health spokesman Fearghal McKinney, however, has said that news on outpatient waiting times is shocking.

"The figures speak for themselves - the human stories behind them are sometimes horrendous," he said.

"Four years ago an important plan spelt out that this could happen. It was called Transforming Your Care (TYC), which said failure to plan would lead to haphazard change. That is what we are now witnessing. The responsibility for that rests with a queue of DUP ministers in Health, Finance and the Executive."

Mr McKinney added that during the 2011 budget, the SDLP said health was not properly financed and "rightly" rejected that budget.

"The potential crisis in health referred to by TYC in 2011 is perhaps even worse than it predicted and it is clear that the recent £40m given to elective care will not adequately reduce those waiting lists.

"But the waiting lists, while dreadful in themselves, are once again a symptom, not a cause, and the cause has been the strategic failure on behalf of the DUP."

What our readers said...

Tony Meehan: My hernia op may take up to a year

Laura Nevin: Currently 3 years waiting on Coleraine Hospital. Almost 4 now. Another 3 before that of asking my GP to refer me to a specialist because they kept throwing tablets at the symptoms instead of actually referring me so they can fix problem causing these symptoms. Also had a day procedure cancelled five minutes before they were due to take me in because they never read my notes properly and never saw something potentially fatal.

Emma Taylor: My son has been waiting from March and I have now been told it could be another 60 weeks. He is 3... probably end up paying to go private.

Lynn O’Neill: I have to wait 7 months just to see the consultant then another 7 months to get the op on my foot on which I can barely walk

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