Almost 1200 patients in the Western Trust area have been referred to the private sector in a bid to cut the overwhelming demand on the Trust’s neurological services, it has been revealed.
In addition 487 patients still remain on the Trust’s own waiting lists - bringing the total number of people - some of whom have been waiting more than a year for a consult - to 1657 in total - close to double the number of people on the waiting list in February of this year.
One local woman, who has been waiting 14 months for an appointment said: “I now have to travel to Belfast to see a consultant. I’m glad I’m finally being seen but it is ridiculous I have to travel to Belfast. Will any treatment I may need also be transferred out of Derry?”
SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan, the party’s health spokesperson, said the issue will only get worse unless a radical rethink on funding for neurological services is carried out at Department of Health level.
“The number of people of seeking neurological consults is on the increase - we cannot deny there is an upward trend. Unless this issue is looked at at Department level it can only get worse.”
Mr Durkan said the referral of patients to the private sector was “not unheard of” and often happened towards the end of the year to help tackle the waiting list figures. While he welcomed the fact this means patients with potentially serious conditions would now be seen sooner, he said the associated cost would be “huge” and that the entire funding system for such services needed a “radical overhaul”.
Geraldine Hillick,Western Trust Director of Acute Services, said: “The Trust is committed to reducing waiting times for patients. There are a number of ongoing efforts being made to reduce waiting times for neurology patients including the provision of additional sessions and the use of the local independent health care sector.
“The demand for neurology services in the Western Trust is greater than the capacity the Trust has to deliver the service. However, through the use of such measures to reduce waiting times, the Trust is planning that the maximum waiting time at the end of March will be approximately 26 weeks.”