People waiting less than a year in England for surgery compared to five years in Northern Ireland…

Great article by Seanín Graham in today’s Irish News about the ever expanding waiting list for medical operations in Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland patients are waiting on average five years for routine operations. This compares to less than a year in England. From the article:

It emerged that one million patients are now waiting in excess of 18 weeks for ‘routine’ operations in England.

But in today’s Irish News, the story of a housebound pensioner who faces a five-year wait for orthopaedic surgery is one that is replicated thousands of times across Northern Ireland.

With a mothballed Stormont and a £60 million bail-out for the north’s health service somewhere in the ether, surely the Health and Social Care Board along with senior civil servants at the department must recognise the need to urgently find solutions to a shameful situation that has made us the worst performing service in the entire NHS.

 The main feature of the story is that some patients are now so desperate that they are going abroad for surgery. It turns out the Health Service can reimburse you for treatment you have had abroad.

To date, almost 300 patients in the north have been approved for reimbursement by the north’s main health body, the Health and Social Care Board, with expenditure set to top £1m once the payments have been settled.

The existence of such a scheme is news to me, and I am sure it is to most of you also. It does bring up some questions:

Could the health department just create a scheme that says your operation will cost X, here is the money if you want to go private or get it done abroad?

Could the health department not do a deal to send patients to overseas hospitals? I know they have arrangements with private hospitals in Dublin, so I assume it would be just expanding the existing scheme.

Could they hire in some of these overseas surgeons for a while to work through the backlog?

To be honest, I don’t understand why the waiting lists are so long. We all hear stories about consultants telling patients it will be a 5-year wait in the NHS or they have the operation done next week if they go private. You also hear stories of surgeons who seem to be on a go slow for their NHS work but manage to blast through their private work in no time at all. Like everything to do with the health service, I imagine it’s a complex issue with no simple answers.

I would be keen to get the opinions of consultants or surgeons. You can contact me at: [email protected]

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