Waiting time pressure forcing Trust to send NHS patients private

HUNDREDS of hospital patients throughout Magherafelt and Cookstown are being sent private for surgery, skin complaints and ENT problems due to escalating waiting lists in the Northern Trust.

Three private health care providers, including one based in Wales, have been contracted by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust at an unknown cost to the taxpayer to carry out a range of out and in-patient dermatology, general surgery and neurology treatments.

A Freedom of Information document passed to the MAIL states that the North West Independent Hospital (NWIH) based in Ballykelly was awarded a six-month contract on the 12th December, 2011 to provide services for pain management to patients throughout the Trust area.

Belfast based private provider, 3 Five Two Healthcare was also awarded a six month contract on the same date to provide dermatology, ENT, gastroenterology, general surgery, gynaecology, neurology, pain and rheumatology care.

The Trust have even awarded a contract to a Welsh company, which currently has no offices in Northern Ireland, to carry out endoscopy services to local patients.

Medinet Wales, which has offices in Newport, South Wales and the West Midlands, was awarded the five month contract for an unknown sum in October 2011.

The private healthcare company claims to have worked with health trusts and board across the UK to successfully treat over 150,000 patients to help “reduce waiting times” and achieve “waiting time targets”.

The release of the private contract information comes in the same week Health Minister Edwin Poots vowed to take action on soaring A&E waiting times.

“I want to see a significant improvement in the performance of emergency departments across Northern Ireland and that can only be achieved through a broad approach, involving all areas of the health service,” he said to a delegates Ward Sister Conference in Mossley Mill on Wednesday.

An Action Group is now to be established to drive down waiting times and improving the standard of care received by patients in the province.

Waiting times have also been criticised by local health group Save the Mid, which has called on “urgent” investment in the NHSCT.

“Capacity is full within the Northern Trust in A&E, inpatient wards, consultant led clinics, theatres, the Trust cannot afford any more cuts as per the review initiated by Health Minister Edwin Poots and undertaken by John Compton,” said chair Hugh McCloy.

“Urgent investment is required before the entire Trust area becomes clinically unsafe to live in and before the Trust review what services to remove while the Assembly is on summer recess and unfit to stop them.”