Leading article

Patient's experience underlines problems in our healthcare system

When Australian Jason Calvert moved to take up a senior post with a leading multinational company in Northern Ireland, he probably thought that registering with a GP would be a fairly simple process.

After all, he is a health economist by profession who has worked for the World Health Organisation, so negotiating our healthcare system should not be beyond his capabilities.

However, a year after he moved to live in Portadown, the senior manager at PriceWaterhouseCoopers has still not been able to register with any of the local GP practices.

He has been on a waiting list at one surgery for six months but because he has not had an official letter of refusal, the Health and Social Care Board say they cannot help him.

This is clearly a frustrating situation but what makes it particularly pressing in Mr Calvert's case is the fact that he suffers from a respiratory condition that needs regular monitoring and management.

When he was unwell last November, he had no option but to attend an under-pressure A&E, something he feels could have been avoided if he had access to a GP.

Ironically, despite living in Co Armagh and working in Belfast, he had to wait until he was on a visit to Melbourne, Australia to get the GP care he needs for his condition.

Mr Calvert makes the reasonable point that he is contributing to the Northern Ireland economy and paying into our tax system so should be able to access GP services for his medical condition.

He also realises that he is in a better position than many migrants who may not have the language skills or knowledge required to navigate our healthcare system.

This case offers a fresh perspective on the deepening crisis facing family doctors in Northern Ireland and the fear is that this problem is only going to get worse without a strategy in place.

But there is also a concern that some patients are caught up in unwieldy bureaucracy which is leaving them in limbo.

That is something that needs to be urgently addressed.

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