In the past year patients from Fermanagh have travelled over one million miles to outpatient appointments that take place outside of South West Acute Hospital (SWAH). A local carers organisation, South West Carers and Families (SWCF) has made the claim as part of a 19-page report it has compiled into outpatient trends across Northern Ireland.

The report states that more and more Fermanagh people are being asked to travel for outpatient appointments, with the majority who are being asked to travel attending Altnagelvin Hospital in Co Londonderry.

In the report, which draws on health documents in the public domain and also Freedom of Information Requests, figures show that 23 per cent of patients in Fermanagh travel to Altnagelvin for appointments, with less than 1 percent travelling in the other direction from the Londonderry area to South West acute Hospital in Enniskillen. A further three percent of patients in the county travel to Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Centre (OHPCC) and Roe Valley, neither of which are acute hospitals.

In its report SWCF argue that despite both Altnagelvin and SWAH being acute hospitals that there is a clear preference from health chiefs towards moving more and more outpatient appointments to Altnagelvin with a five percent rise in the past five years.

Jimmy Hamill, a member of SWCF, said: “The figures in our report are very clear. Last year 8,389 patients from the SWAH area travelled to Altnagelvin for outpatient appointments – while only 75 patients travelled from Altnagelvin to SWAH. This not at all balanced. For one in every five appointments patients from SWAH have to travel the long road to Derry and back. This is surprising as both SWAH and Altnagelvin have acute hospitals with a full range of specialties available there.”

Another area that the report focused on is patients in the Omagh area and where they attend outpatient appointments. Figures in the report state that 42 percent of patients in the Omagh area attend Altnaglevin with 12 percent travelling to SWAH. The remaining attend OHPCC.

“Significant parts of the Omagh area are much nearer to SWAH and it is reasonable to ask why more of these appointments are not in SWAH. Our report shows clearly that the trend in the Western HSC Trust over the last three years is a steady increase in the migration of outpatient appointments into Altnagelvin from the outpatient centres in SWAH, Omagh and Limavady,” Mr Hamill stated.

A Spokesperson for the WHSCT: said:

“The Western Trust will take time to consider the report collated by South West Carers Forum into Outpatients services,” they said, adding: “A quick analysis of outpatient appointments over a longer period (ie from 2009 - 2019) demonstrates a fluctuating trend throughout hospitals in Northern Ireland.

“This is consistent with outpatient appointments in the South West Acute Hospital.”