24/10/2018

New Operation Centres To Cut Hospital Waiting Lists

Health services will see a significant boost to their capacity and a drop in waiting lists, if the proposed 2,000 extra cataract operations for improving eyesight each year are approved, health authorities have said.

An extra 500 varicose vein procedures are also anticipated with the creation of new regional centres for day surgery, which will reduce the risk of last-minute cancellations due to bed or staff shortages.

The Department of Health said the pilot scheme, using smaller hospitals in counties Tyrone and Down, should reduce waiting lists significantly.

Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said: "The development of elective care centres is an important step in the transformation of hospital services in Northern Ireland.

"The current waiting times for hospital surgery are totally unacceptable, and elective care centres are central to our plans to eradicate this scourge on our service.

"Delivering services on fewer hospital sites will increase the capacity of the health system and allow us to deliver more procedures."
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Mr Pengelly also stressed that additional investment is still required to clear the backlog of patients who are waiting for an operation.

The number of people enduring lengthy waits for some surgical procedures in Northern Ireland was higher than in England this year, NHS statistics revealed.

Prototype centres for varicose veins will be based at Lagan Valley Hospital and Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex; and those for cataracts will operate from Mid Ulster Hospital, Downe Hospital and South Tyrone Hospital.

They will serve patients from across Northern Ireland, so some patients may have to travel a bit further for their day surgery.

BMA Northern Ireland Council chair Dr Tom Black said: "Elective care, which is essentially non-urgent surgery or treatment, can often be cancelled at the last minute due to bed or staff shortages.

"By having these services delivered away from acute hospital sites means staff are not pulled away to treat urgent cases.

"This will hopefully mean certainty for patients, who will not have their procedure cancelled at the last minute."

(JG)

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