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Soaring hospital waits blamed on scrapping of GP service

13th February 2013

The decision to end GPs performing ear, nose and throat (ENT) procedures in east Belfast has been blamed for a rise in hospital waiting lists.

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The service was designed to cut demand on the Belfast health trust but the end of the pilot scheme has now seen waiting times to see a hospital consultant rise to 45 weeks.

The initiative, one of a number of Pathfinder Projects across Northern Ireland to transfer services away from hospitals, is now being evaluated according to the health board.

The ENT scheme, which had been running for 18 months, had seen more than 1,200 patients treated at Holywood Arches health centre by family doctors specialising in ENT procedures.

BBC NI health correspondent Marie-Louise Connolly said the scheme had meant patients being seen more quickly and pressure and cost removed from the Royal Victoria Hospital.

“This method of shifting care out into the community is the over-riding principle behind the document Transforming Your Care, the Department of Health's new road map for delivering some local services,” she said.

“While the health board says the scheme was only ever a pilot, sources have told the BBC that some officials didn’t like the idea of GPs having so much control over patients or resources.”

Dr Joe Turner, the clinical director of ENT at the Belfast Trust, said patients having to wait 45 weeks was rare, with most seen within 35 weeks.

It has also emerged that NHS consultants are now being paid to carry out ENT procedures in private clinics to lower waiting lists.

 

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