23/Apr/2014 - Last News Update: 15:02

100% rise in hip and knee operation waits in Belfast

Category: Northern Ireland

Published: 6th Aug 2012 06:05:53

The number of people waiting in the Belfast Health Trust for knee and hip operations has increased by almost 100% in the past two years.

Figures obtained by the BBC show a dramatic rise in those having to wait for the procedures.

Under the NHS Constitution in England it is a legal right for people to wait no longer than 18 weeks for an operation.

In Northern Ireland however that figure is 36 weeks.

While it is not clear just how many are having to wait more than nine months, it is widely accepted that the trust is failing to meet its targets.

The Department of Health told the BBC: "Long waiting times for appointments are unacceptable and that's why the minister (Edwin Poots) has set targets that people should be seen within acceptable time scales.

"For patients waiting for an outpatient appointment, he expects that at least 50% of patients wait no longer than nine weeks, with no-one waiting for longer than 21 weeks, increasing to 60% by March 2013."

To help address backlogs in elective care waiting times, the department has allocated an additional £10m.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the department said: "The £10m would target specialities which are particularly at risk of falling short of the 2012/13 outpatient and inpatient waiting times targets - which include orthopaedics."

Within the Belfast Trust, there are currently more than 1,527 people waiting for knee and hip replacements - in 2012 there were 797.

Among those waiting is 66-year-old Maureen Lennox.

Initially Mrs Lennox, from County Down, was told she would have to wait nine months for a hip operation. Last week however, a letter from Musgrave Park Hospital said she would have to wait another nine months.

"The pain has been excruciating. Sometimes when I put my foot down the leg gives way and I fall over," she said.

"At the start I didn't mind waiting, but another nine months is just too much. I do get depressed and, with the pain, it's not a good way to be."

While a lack of resources in the NHS is mainly to blame for the increasing waiting times, other issues include an ageing population and a sharp rise in the number of people in Northern Ireland who are obese.

People who are overweight are placing massive pressure on their joints. Where possible, consultants prefer patients to lose as much weight as possible before they carry out a hip replacement.

But according to those in that position it's a vicious circle.

Maureen Lennox has lost 19 pounds, but she has been told that is not enough.

"I used to swim and walk which helped me keep my weight down, but now I'm no longer active and it's difficult to keep the weight off," she said.

"But no one offered to help me to lose weight, it's hard to do it on your own."

It is a similar story in England.

Last year the president of the British Orthopaedic Association (BOA) told the BBC that surgeons were becoming increasingly frustrated that hip and knee replacements were being targeted as a way of finding savings.

Peter Kay said that in the long-term, hip and knee operations save society money.

Pol Murray is co-owner of Fight Academy Ireland, a gym and martial arts studio in west Belfast.

Suffering from arthritis he was put on a waiting list for a hip operation in 2011.

He said as he owned his own business he was not entitled to sick pay - but many others who are 'on the sick' are only wasting resources.

Having waited just over 12 months, Mr Murray received his operation last month. He said the change has been amazing.

"It's people's lives we're talking about here - not just a number.

"I had to pay other coaches to come in and work in my business as I wasn't capable.

"If I'd been working for a private company they would have had to pay me sick pay. I have had to sit here for a year doing practically nothing."

As Mr Murray begins to exercise again he said it has not only improved his physical health but also his mental health.

"For six months I couldn't put on my own shoes, it was dreadful. But now I'm back and the operation has been a success," he said.

The BBC understands that other factors which are contributing to the waiting problem is a lack of consultant orthopaedic surgeons and a lack of theatres.

While there are approximately 36 surgeons, the feeling among some members of staff is a lack of planning has meant there are not enough surgeons to meet demand.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Health and Social Care board said: "The board is aware of increased demand for orthopaedic services.

"It is actively working with Health Trusts to enhance their ability to provide treatment to all patients as quickly as possible."

Source:
BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2012. 100% rise in hip and knee operation waits in Belfast [Online] (Updated 6th Aug 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1444646/100-rise-in-hip-and-knee-operation-waits-in-Belfast [Accessed 23rd Apr 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Agoraphobic benefits cheat Tracy Johnson jailed for year

    A benefits cheat who claimed to have a fear of open spaces has been jailed for a year at Merthyr Crown court after being caught working as a tour guide in South America.
  • Twaddell Avenue camp: Three in court over flag incident

    Three people have appeared in court charged in connection with an incident at a loyalist protest camp in north Belfast.
  • Plan to abolish corroboration put on hold by Scottish government

    Controversial plans to end the need for evidence in Scottish criminal trials to come from two sources have been delayed by the government.
  • NHS Central Eastern Commissioning Support Unit in CCG services talks

    A body supporting NHS groups in the eastern region has warned it could cease to operate in its "current form".
  • Palestinian Hamas-Fatah unity deal announced

    Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have announced a reconciliation deal after a meeting in the Gaza Strip.
  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com