Brain Surgery

Oral Answers to Questions — Health, Social Services and Public Safety – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 14th October 2002.

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Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC 3:00 pm, 14th October 2002

2. asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to outline, for the last 10 month period, (a) the number of brain surgery operations that have taken place and (b) the number of people waiting for surgery.

(AQO 309/02)

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Níl fáil ar an eolas ar líon na n-obráidí máinliacht inchinne a rinneadh agus ar líon na daoine atá ag fanacht le máinliacht, mar ní mhiondealaítear liostaí feithimh ar an speisialtacht néarmháinliachta ina gcatagóirí ar leith.

The information requested is not available, as waiting lists in the neurosurgery speciality are not broken down into separate categories.

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

I am disappointed with the Minister’s response. She is aware that the 82-year-old mother of one of my constituents was told in December 2001 that she needed surgery for a brain tumour.

Almost 12 months later, Hanna Glascott is still waiting. Two weeks ago, the Minister’s office told me that she was in line for surgery. Her family has heard absolutely nothing. Will the Minister explain what is happening? Will she assure me that Mrs Glascott has not been put to the bottom of the list because of her age?

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

I assure Ms Morrice that no one is put to the bottom of a waiting list because of age and that Mrs Glascott has most definitely not been put to the bottom of the list because of her age. As Ms Morrice knows, right up until I came here today, my office has been dealing with her to determine what to provide for Mrs Glascott and the steps that must be taken to do that.

Ms Morrice referred to the breakdown of information. It is not possible to break down the numbers waiting for speciality services, and, if it were, it would not necessarily improve the provision of those services. Measures to improve the provision of speciality services include, for example, the considerable efforts being made by the Royal Group of Hospitals to address current problems, which include the introduction of three additional theatre lists; provision of funding for two additional beds for elective surgery; improvements in discharge times; a substantial increase in the number of nurse training places; and — [Interruption].

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

Not by September this year.

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

It ill behoves a Deputy Speaker to interrupt the Minister who is trying to answer her question.

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

Provision has been made to fund four nurses, on a supernumerary basis, to attract them to the neurosurgery speciality. Therefore, work has been done to improve discharge times; provide additional nurses and theatre lists; and find funding for two additional beds for elective surgery.

Photo of Mr Billy Hutchinson Mr Billy Hutchinson PUP

Is practice in the United Kingdom the same as in Europe, where surgery is performed at the weekend?

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

Practices vary between different countries in Europe. Some practices are similar here, and some are not. Specific work has been done on elective surgery here, and questions have been asked about the payments that have been made for it. Negotiations must take place for people to work outside their normal hours, and that issue is also being addressed through the negotiations on consultant contracts.

Photo of Joe Byrne Joe Byrne Social Democratic and Labour Party

Does the Minister accept that many people who suffer from brain illnesses experience great concern and anxiety, especially given the NHS categorisation that ranges between "very serious illness" and "life-threatening illness"? Does the Minister accept that no patient should have to make a choice between going private, because of the urgency of the situation, and waiting for an NHS operation?

Photo of Bairbre de Brún Bairbre de Brún Sinn Féin

As I have said many times in the Assembly, I agree that staff in the health and personal social services deal with the legacy of years of considerable underfunding. Daily, they are faced with questions that must be answered and decisions that must be taken in a far from ideal context. In neurosurgery, the more urgent cases are assessed daily and treated in accordance with clinical priority. It would, therefore, not be possible for us to move away from a service that is based, not on age or any other criterion, but on clinical priority.