MLA’s anger as elderly man forced to wait 142 weeks for eye surgery

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An elderly man whose deteriorating eyesight could be dramatically improved with simple surgery is being forced to wait up to 142 weeks.

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly has slammed the Belfast Trust which has put the 75-year-old man’s ‘urgent’ ophthalmology appointment on a 99-142 week waiting list.

Mrs Kelly said: “This 75-year-old gentleman is one of a number of people with deteriorating eyesight who have been given waiting times between 142 weeks and 99 weeks depending on how long they have already been waiting for an ‘urgent’ ophthalmology appointment.

“Then they will have to endure a further lengthy wait to have cataract surgery,” she added.

“In the meantime their independence and quality of life is reducing.

“In some cases social care packages have to be put in place with added financial burden on already overstretched service,” said the Upper Bann MLA.

“This is appalling. I have written to Commissioning Board to ask them how they intend to radically improve this situation.

“I have also written to the Trust to ascertain the numbers on the waiting list and timeframe for cataract surgery.

“You may recall that last Autumn the Trust Board offered up its additional funding from the department for the higher older person demographic in this Trust area as part of it’s overall savings plan on the grounds that they could spend the money!

“I’m sure many people especially those with fading but treatable sight conditions will ask why!

“I understand also that paediatric consultant referrals are being told that they won’t be seen until 2021.,” said the MLA.

The Southern Health and Social Care Trust has clarified that “The £3m referred to by Dolores Kelly was not money refused by the Trust.

“The Trust did receive an additional £3m to account for our growing older population. We were not able to spend this in the first five months of the financial year which is why it has been referred to as a saving, however we can confirm that this money has now all been allocated and spent on services.

“We have invited Dolores Kelly to meet with us on several occasions to explain this and other issues but she has not been able to attend.”

“In reference to the paediatric waiting lists – we would need to know what speciality Dolores is referring to check this – it may possibly be a regional service but we can confirm that none of our own local paediatric services have waiting lists up to 2021.”

A spokesperson for the Belfast Health Trustsaid: “Belfast Trust currently staff the ophthalmology service for Southern Trust, South Eastern and Northern Trust.

“The current wait for Southern Trust is 69 weeks for an urgent outpatient appointment and 145 weeks for a routine appointment.

“We fully acknowledge that our hospital waiting times are too long in a number of areas and we are very sorry that any patient should have to wait for treatment.

“Like all Trusts across Northern Ireland, we recognise that demand for services exceeds our capacity to deliver and that transformation is required.

“Belfast Trust have scheduled additional out of hours clinics to help reduce waiting times within Southern Trust and from 13th January 2018 to 31st March 2018 have provided 700 appointment slots. In addition there has been the appointment of a new consultant to address these challenging waiting times.”