NHS 'failing' patients over cancelled operations
A FORMER health minister has criticised the extent of cancelled hospital operations - with the rate more than doubling at Northern Ireland's biggest hospital over one month.
UUP Assembly member Michael McGimpsey said the scale of the problem "laid bare" the crisis facing the NHS after it emerged that more than 2,600 planned surgeries were 'postponed' at the Royal Victoria hospital between May last year and April this year.
His comments come a day after the latest waiting list statistics revealed that one in five patients in the north are now on a hospital waiting list.
There was a public outcry in January when all five of the north's health trusts took the unprecedented step of cancelling planned operations due to massive A&E pressures.
Concerns were raised at the lack of transparency across the sector, with many patients awaiting surgery complaining at the lack of communication about their revised dates for serious operations, such as hip replacements.
New information released through a response to a written Assembly question shows a total of 154 surgeries were postponed at the Royal last December - but this jumped to 395 by January and only dropped marginally for the following two months.
It also emerged that more than 1,300 operations were put back at the Ulster hospital in Dondonald over an eleven-month period, while the City hospital in Belfast postponed 1,760 over the same timeframe.
DUP health minister, Simon Hamilton said the cancellations related to a range of issues, including an overrun of theatre lists, emergency cases taking priority and equipment failure.
Mr Hamilton also noted that in some cases patients cancelled themselves or were deemed medically unfit to undergo a procedure.
But Mr McGimpsey noted that all hospitals across the north had been affected by the problem, which he branded "inhumane" given the lengthy delays for first assessments with a consultant.
"Making people wait for months to be even given an appointment, then for several more for a date of surgery is bad enough in the first place, but then cancelling that operation often at the last moment is downright inhumane," the South Belfast Assembly member said.
"With every cancellation there is a risk of illnesses and ailments progressing so this is much bigger a problem that the health trusts simply kicking the can slightly further down the road. People of all ages are being affected and I have no doubt that the trusts …are failing in their duty to look after patients."