WAITING lists in the Western Trust show that some patients are waiting more than six years for their assessments and surgeries.

Currently, the waiting times for orthopaedic surgery in the Western Trust are the longest in the region.

As of April, there were 4,990 patients awaiting OP assessment. Some patients have been waiting for more than six years, with some 1,691 of these waiting for more than two years.

There are 1,748 patients awaiting daycase surgery – the longest of those has been waiting for more than six years, with some 441 patients waiting for more than two years.

There are 3,709 patients waiting in-patient surgery in the Western Trust, the longest for more than six years, with some 1,769 patients waiting for more than two years.

A new collaborative working trial aimed at developing new ways to tackle long-standing waiting lists has been developed by the Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) at the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH).

The new Test of Change pilot trial saw colleagues from the Trauma and Orthopaedic Unit in Altnagelvin Hospital travel to the Enniskillen site to complete foot and ankle surgeries on patients using the facilities there on April 10, with a similar staff return scheduled on April 24.

Geraldine McKay, WHSCT Director of Acute Hospitals, said: “The waiting times for Orthopaedic Surgeries are the longest in the region and the development of this Test of Change trial represents a huge opportunity for improvement for patients across the Western Trust geography.

“Our teams have worked very hard to make sure that those patients who have waited, in some cases up to three years, for their surgery can now access the additional capacity at the SWAH.

“The theatre team and senior management team have worked tirelessly to ensure that the hospital and the staff here are at the forefront of new models, going forward, and I’m very proud of the clinical team who have led this piece of work, which has been done with benefits for patients in mind.”

Clinical and admin teams have also carried out validation of assessment and treatment waiting lists. Some of these exercises have removed more than 25 per cent of patients from the waiting lists, who no longer required assessment, had been treated privately, or used the EU directive for elective care.

The Western Trust did not provide a breakdown of those who no longer required assessment, or those who opted for private or EU directive treatment when the Western Trust was unable to treat them.

The Test of Change pilot is operating due to the full support of SWAH theatre staff, anaesthetic staff and all support services such as pharmacy, radiology, HSDU, physiotherapy, podiatry, cleaning and administration, all of who are working with senior Altnagelvin-based staff to ensure the comprehensive development of the pilot.

Although in-patient elective services have had to be suspended for most of the past year, daycase surgery has continued at the Altnagelvin site.

Surgeons have further developed the new daycase facility treating a wider range of patients on a daycase basis and using new techniques in local anaesthetic and developing multidisciplinary review post-surgery.

Consultant surgeons have also used facilities with local independent sector providers, such as North West Independent Hospital, to treat a number of elective orthopaedic patients through a contract developed by the HSCB.

As demands on critical care services reduce on the Altnagelvin site, the theatres are now in use for in-patient orthopaedic surgery on a phased basis.

This comes as the Department of Health dashboard shows the SWAH operating between 1 per cent and 10 per cent over capacity at various points in the past week.