Northern Ireland news

Ombudsman launches probe amid concerns patients 'not getting information' about waiting lists

The Public Services Ombudsman has launched an investigation into how the north's health and social care trusts keep patients informed about waiting lists

AN investigation has been launched into how the north's health and social care trusts are keeping patients informed about waiting lists.

Public Services Ombudsman Margaret Kelly launched the probe amid concerns patients may not be getting the information they need.

Ms Kelly decided on an investigation after she sent inquiries to the trusts and the Department of Health earlier this year. The probe was also prompted by a review of the number of complaints brought to the Ombudsman’s Office. It will look in detail at what patients waiting for medical care are being told.

It will examine whether patients have been informed if they have been added to a waiting list, if their case is classed as 'urgent' or 'routine' and how long they might have to wait. It will also look at whether and how often patients are updated.

The ombudsman will take evidence from the public via an online survey.

"Although the issue of lengthy waiting lists has long been an issue of concern, my focus in this investigation is on the communication between the trusts and their patients," Ms Kelly said.

"Based on complaints to my office, as well as information received from the trusts, I am concerned that patients are not getting the information they need.

"While trust guidelines stress the importance of good communication, what sometimes seems to be happening is that patients simply have no idea of when they might be seen, or even whether they have been added to a waiting list.

"This can have an effect on their physical and mental wellbeing. The investigation will look at the current policies in place, including guidance issued by the Department of Health and whether they are being consistently applied across the trusts."

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