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NI Commissioner for Older People intervenes in case challenging lengthy hospital waiting lists

May Kitchen, 77, resorted to paying for private cataract surgery after she was advised that she would have to wait up to four years for funded treatment

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Pixabay/Marjon Besteman

The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Older People has been granted permission to intervene in support of a Belfast woman who is challenging lengthy hospital waiting lists in the High Court.

Commissioner Eddie Lynch will make written statements in support of Belfast retiree, May Kitchen, who resorted to paying for private cataract surgery after she was advised that she could wait up to four years for funded treatment.

Kitchen was diagnosed with cataracts six years ago and was afraid that she would completely lose her sight if she waited for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust to perform surgery.

Explaining the decision to request third party intervenor status in the case, Lynch highlighted that he had received an increasing number of complaints over the past five years about lengthy hospital waiting times.

“These are people who, very often, have worked and contributed to society their whole lives and whose quality of life in latter years becomes intolerable due to the impact of the wait for medical care,” he shared.

“Whilst I understand the complex mix of reasons contributing to the pressure the health and social care system is under, older people are disproportionately affected and the impact of waiting prolonged periods of time for appointments, which could ultimately improve their quality of life, can be hugely detrimental. It is simply not acceptable that any older person should be waiting this length of time for surgery to improve their quality of life,” Lynch emphasised.

Lynch highlighted that the issue of long waiting times for hospital treatment would become more problematic with the increasingly complex health needs of an ageing population.

“Unfortunately, the issue of hospital waiting lists has been resistant to change at a political and policy level, despite several reviews of the health and social care system in Northern Ireland over many years, and if the trajectory of the lists continue it will affect many more older people for years to come,” he said.

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