Patients waiting years for treatment - Derry GP

Dr. Nicola Herron.
Dr. Nicola Herron.

A Derry doctor has warned that some aspects of patient care are now worse than they were when she started her career in the profession over 20 years ago.

Dr. Nicola Herron, a GP at the Waterside Health Centre, was speaking as she addressed the Western Trust Board and urged its members to stand with the people and not to implement any cuts.

Dr. Herron was among around 20 speakers who addressed the Trust’s extraordinary meeting on Friday, the vast majority of them urging the Trust not go ahead with its Savings Plan to implement £3.1m cuts following a directive from the Department of Health.

The department had initially told the Western Trust that it had to find £12.5m of savings as part of a wider £70m programme of Trusts cuts across the North, but this figure was reduced after it was announced last Wednesday that £40m had been recouped from government coffers.

Speaking prior to the Board voting in favour of the reduced programme of savings, Dr. Herron, said that as a GP in Derry, she was working at the coal face of the cuts and the effects on patients.

Agreeing with the previous speakers who addressed the Board, she said: “Obviously people are very frustrated; very, very angry but what they were all doing was appealing to the people around these tables to work with them; not for it to be an ‘us and them’ scenario.”

There were rounds of applause from those attending the meeting as she added: “I’m here to represent my patients but you are here to represent the people of the Western Trust area and we are totally reliant on you to do that for us. Some of the suggestions I thought were very, very good. Just say no.

“The money is there. Obviously it is not going to be given to you if you don’t ask. And if you roll over and say, ‘We will make these cuts; we will keep the books balanced,’ then nothing is going to change.

“I’ve been working as a GP now for 22 years. I worked in hospital for 16 years and four years before that as a junior doctor in Altnagelvin. The service is worse now. Some aspects are much, much better, but as regards access to service it is much, much worse.”

There were further shouts of ‘hear, hear’ as she continued: “Every single day of practice I am trying to explain and apologise for the hospital, the fact that when I refer them it’s going to be two to three years before they are seen and a further two years before they get the procedure that they need. And every day I stop to think, ‘if this person needs this, is that acceptable? No’. If it’s not acceptable we can’t accept it.”

Dr. Herron added: “The silver lining to all of this consultation and we talk about it being a sham, a waste of time and a waste of breath, is to give you ammunition to go to the politicians, to the Minister of Health - when we get one - to use this force, this energy. Don’t separate yourselves from it. We are here, we want to be standing beside you, to use the energy we all have together to say ‘not acceptable.”