It has been reported by BBC News NI that according to figures relating to December 2022, some patients in the Western Health Trust area are waiting up to 20 weeks to see a specialist Consultant following Red Flag referrals by their GPs. Red flag referrals are made when it is suspected that a patient’s symptoms could indicate cancer and therefore require further investigation although the target time for patients to be seen by a Consultant varies depending on the nature of their symptoms.
It is also reported that the services affected include General Surgery, Urology, Orthopaedics, Endoscopy, Gynaecology, ENT and Ophthalmology. For example, the longest wait for a Red Flag Inpatient/Day Case for General Surgery is 19.9 weeks, with the average waiting time being 16 weeks and the longest waiting time for orthopaedic surgery is eight years. The Western Trust have apologised.
There are also now reportedly 378,411 patients across Northern Ireland waiting for a first Consultant-led outpatient appointment and understandably, patients are increasingly turning to the private sector and self-funding the necessary investigations and treatment they require instead. This is hugely concerning and inevitably increases the anxiety felt by patients and their families. It is also to be noted that patients can, in some instances, come to significant harm if there is a delay in diagnosing and treating cancer as per established clinical guidelines. For those patients awaiting hip replacement surgery, their quality of life can be impacted by pain and reduced mobility on a daily basis.
To view the full BBC NI article, click here: