Health Service: Rise in Trust transfers to private Ballykelly clinic before U-turn

The North West Independent Hospital Ballykelly. INLV3714-392KDR
The North West Independent Hospital Ballykelly. INLV3714-392KDR

Both outpatient and inpatient attendances at the North West Independent Hospital in Ballykelly have risen significantly in the past five years.

This comes just weeks after the clinic confirmed they could lose up to 60 staff as part of an ongoing “redundancy process”.

The private clinic said that the redundancies were a “direct result of the cessation of NHS referrals to the hospital under the Waiting List Initiative.”

Last week, East Derry MLA Claire Sugden requested figures from the Minister of Health detailing “the number of patient referrals made by the Health Service to the North West Private Hospital in Ballykelly, in each of the last five years.”

The Minister replied: “The number of patient referrals made by the Health Service to the North West Private Hospital in Ballykelly is not available. However, information is available on the number of outpatient attendances and inpatient admissions at the North West Private Hospital in Ballykelly.”

The figures provided by the Minister show that in 2009/10, there were 7,026 outpatient attendances carried out by the North West Independent Hospital in Ballykelly, with transfers from the Northern, Western and smaller numbers from the Southern Trust.

In 2013/14, there were 14,038 outpatient attendances carried out in Ballykelly. In 2012/13, that figure was 13,300, up from 6,998 the previous year and 3,426 the year before that.

Responding to a query about the redundancies when they were first announced, a North West Indpendent Hospital spokesperson said: “For many years we have provided a professional service to the NHS to help reduce the time patients have had to wait on operations. Despite the fact that these operations were carried out at a price which compared favourably to the cost of the operation being undertaken within the NHS this referral work has now been terminated.

“We greatly appreciate the support and commitment shown by our staff and deeply regret the need to make redundancies. The North West Independent Healthcare Group’s private healthcare, domiciliary care and recruitment divisions are unaffected.”

MLA Claire Sugden, who replaced Independent David McClarty after his recent death, said: “It does seem quite curious that the referrals have been going up while at the same time they are going to put an end to them. I would have to ask are people going to be put on the waiting lists now rather than being given a referral to an independent clinic like the one in Ballykelly? I am a bit confused as to the rationale behind this and it is something I am going to be bringing up with the Minister.

“Why, all of a sudden, are we moving to end the referrals when they have been rising. I’m not sure if this is in respect of the welfare cuts and the budget crisis associated with that? You have to wonder if this is simply saving money at the cost of patient welfare and that is something I certainly intend to follow up with the Minister.”