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Friday, 25 January 2013

Is the Welsh HSSC right to make Welsh people wait longer for Specialist Surgery?

What a bad week this is turning out to be for National Health Service in Wales (NHSW).  I hadn't got over the shock and devastation of hearing that our local Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) is closing, when I discover that the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee (WHSSC) has instructed English Hospitals to make Welsh Patients wait for Specialist Surgery even if the hospitals in question are ready and the Surgeons are willing, to treat their patients.

This is a worry personally for me as despite living in Wales, the only hospitals that provide the specialist treatment that my son requires for his Hypo plastic Left Heart Syndrome are in England.  He is under the care of Birmingham Children's Hospital (BCH).

 Danny has had three major heart surgeries and is due a Cardiac Catheter and some repair work as soon as he reaches a certain weight.  If we had an operation planned in the immediate future, then it would be delayed on instruction from WHSSC.  If BCH went ahead with the surgery,  the WHSSC would not pay them.  If Danny had been made to wait 26 weeks for his Second and Third surgeries then it could have been too late.

Even more worryingly, if Danny required emergency surgery at BCH, they would not be allowed to operate until WHSSC had (checked their budget and damage limitation) and  pre-approved the procedure.  If BCH made the decision to operate straight away, without waiting for the permission, then the WHSSC would refuse to pay them.

The WHSCC are basically trying to keep their purse strings closed until the new financial year to avoid going any more over budget.

It makes me question if the recent announcement that  Hywel Dda Health Board  (my local Health Board) has cancelled  all elective or planned surgery supposedly due to pressure from a large increase in the number of emergency patients requiring hospital admission over this Winter, is really down to cost cutting by the WHSSC as well.

These operations will be delayed until the end of March.  Currently the waiting time target for Welsh patients is  26 weeks. The NHS in England has a waiting time target of 18 weeks.  This is an issue in itself.

The WHSSC state that by making the Welsh patients who are due to be treated in England wait, it is ensuring equity, they will be waiting for as long as the patients who are due to be treated in Wales.

Never mind how long the waiting list is as long as we all have to wait for the same time.

 This would be fine if we were talking about a waiting time to go on a roller coaster at a theme park, but far crueler making people wait longer for an operation when they may be in pain or discomfort.  They may need this operation to enable them to live a better quality of life. 

A Senior Doctor from the North West told the BBC,

"Some patients get further problems and occasionally die while on waiting lists... so there's always a risk if they're waiting longer for an operation." 

The original aim of waiting time targets was to ensure nobody had to wait longer than the set amount of time, not to force patients to wait longer when there is no need.

 I know they are short of money.  I know savings need to be made.  The Wales Audit Office predicted health boards were likely to be £70m in deficit by the end of the financial year.

I also have to say that I am so grateful for all the care and treatment that I have received from the NHS in the past.  I have four beautiful children and the NHS saved my brave boy Danny's life.  

Maybe this initiative will enable our NHS to save money so we can afford  these operations, however I really feel that they need to let emergency operations go ahead based on the discretion of the Surgeons in England.

What do you think?


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