Waiting Period for Fractures

Health, Social Services and Public Safety – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 11th March 2002.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 3:15 pm, 11th March 2002

6. asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to detail (a) the current waiting period for patients requiring treatment for fractures; and (b) how this compares with previous years.

(AQO 981/01)

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

Glactar formhór na n-othar ag a bhfuil briseadh cnáimhe isteach san ospidéal mar iontrálacha éigeandála, agus déantar iad a chóireáil a luaithe is féidir de réir tosaíochtaí cliniciúla. Bíonn a n-obráid ag formhór na ndaoine a mbaineann máinliacht lena gcóireáil faoi cheann dhá lá. Níl fáil ar eolas comparáideach ó bhlianta roimhe seo.

Most fracture patients are emergency admissions and are treated as soon as possible in accordance with clinical priority. The majority of those operations are carried out within two days.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I hear what the Minister is saying, but what is happening on the ground is different. I have heard about people having to wait more than a week to have fractures repaired. We have also heard the Minister complaining today about not having enough resources. People who have to wait for up to two weeks to get fractures repaired are using much needed resources, and that creates a situation in which mismanagement is eating into the funding that we are giving to the health and social services budget, which has been increased by 37%.

Surely the Minister can do more to ensure that patients get treated immediately and do not have to suffer undue pain and suffering and that we do not have the bed blocking that takes place as a result of mismanagement.

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

People who sustain fractures are first assessed at an accident and emergency department to determine whether they require surgery at a main fracture centre. If they do, they are transferred to one of the fracture units at the Royal Victoria, the Ulster or Altnagelvin hospitals. I am assured that arrangements are in place to ensure that as far as possible everyone who is assessed as requiring inpatient fracture surgery is transferred to a main fracture centre as soon as possible and within 48 hours at the latest. All patients who are admitted either directly to a main fracture centre or are transferred from a local hospital are clinically assessed at a main fracture centre, and treatment is prioritised accordingly.

It is clearly not acceptable that some people must wait a long time for this treatment. Our fracture services have been under sustained pressure for some time as a result of an increased demand for surgery, coupled with a shortage of specialist staff, such as anaesthetists and orthopaedic surgeons both here and in the NHS. I have outlined the ongoing work. In addition, in planning for the present and the future, my Department has afforded a high priority to training in this speciality. Specifically, the number of trainees in orthopaedics has increased by almost 50% in the past five years, and further increases are planned.

Photo of Mr John Kelly Mr John Kelly Sinn Féin

Are pressures on fracture services affecting orthopaedic surgery?

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

Yes, unfortunately, our fracture services have been under sustained pressure for some time. Although every effort is made to minimise the impact on other services, the nature of trauma and fracture injuries is such that urgent surgery is often required. Regrettably, that has resulted in the cancellation of some elective orthopaedic surgery.