NORTHERN Trust chiefs have been forced to send dermatology patients into private care because of soaring waiting lists, the MAIL can reveal.
Patients currently face a 76 week wait for an urgent appointment at a NHSCT hospital - an increase of 20 weeks in just two months. In a bid to tackle the escalating waiting times the Trust was last month granted approval from the Health and Social Care Board to transfer patients to the private sector to cope with the “high demand” placed on dermatology services at Antrim and Causeway hospitals.
It will now begin the transfer of a number of patients this month, with many being seen by private consultants before Christmas.
The news comes just three months after the MAIL revealed the plight of a toddler whose dad was told he would have to wait 40 weeks to have a mysterious lump on his face diagnosed.
The dad blasted the wait as “scandalous” before moving his son into private care. Steve Phillips told how son Theo was then moved back into NHS care after a private doctor said it was unacceptable for him to pay privately and referred him onto dermatology waiting lists within the Belfast Trust.
Little Theo was seen by specialists in Belfast in a number of weeks and received an apology from the Northern Trust.
Speaking on the latest waiting list spike, a Northern Trust spokesperson said it was hopeful that waiting times would be reduced by sending patients into the independent sector.
The spokesperson said: “Due to the very high demand for Dermatology services the current waiting time is up to 76 weeks for routine appointments,”
“The Trust is currently working with the Health and Social Care Board to reduce the waiting times.
“We have recently been given the approval to transfer patients to the independent sector.
“That process has now commenced and patients will start to be seen before Christmas, and this will continue for as long as it is supported by the commissioner. We expect the waiting time to reduce as a consequence of this.
“In the mean time we will continue to work with the commissioner to secure recurrent funding and put in place the structures and process required to provide comprehensive dermatology services to the Northern Trust population.”
The Trust confirmed that patients transferred to private care would not have to pay for any treatment received.