Healthcare news

20% of cancer examinations at Ulster Hospital cancelled as patients failed to get Covid test beforehand

A nurse holds a swab for the Covid-19 test
Jonathan McCambridge, PA

One in five examinations for suspected cancer at the Ulster Hospital had to be cancelled at the weekend because patients failed to attend for Covid tests beforehand.

The South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust is making an urgent appeal for people to undergo a coronavirus swab test 72 hours before their procedure.

Last weekend the Ulster Hospital was running “red flag” suspect cancer endoscopy investigations, but 20% of the entire capacity was lost due to patients not turning up for their swab appointment.

Under current guidance, patients must attend for a swab less than 72 hours before their procedure, even if they have been vaccinated.

The trust said that if people fail to attend, it is too late to offer another patient an appointment as there is insufficient time to organise a swab.

David Robinson, director of hospitals services at South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, said: “I would wish to reassure patients that our elective surgical/diagnostic units are Covid-free.

“It is important that every patient attends for a swab to ensure that their procedure can go ahead.

“This is crucial as every appointment counts in our objective to review our waiting lists.”

Northern Ireland currently has the worst hospital waiting list figures in the NHS.

Statistics published last month showed more than 335,000 people are waiting for a first consultant-led appointment.

More than half of those – 189,753 – have been waiting longer than a year.

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