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Northern Ireland Grapples with Longest Gynaecological Service Waits Across the UK

A major review of gynaecology was conducted by the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) team on behalf of the NHS in Northern Ireland, and the results have revealed some very concerning data. The review was initiated by the Department of Health and led by GIRFT’s gynaecology lead, David Richmond. GIRFT is a national program designed to improve the quality of care within the NHS and address variations in treatments across the UK. The team spent a week visiting five health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland last May. 

The review found that more than 37,000 women were on hospital waiting lists for gynaecological treatments, with almost 5% waiting for more than 3 years. A report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists states a 42% increase in wait times since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Wait times for such treatments are worse in Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the UK. Some women have to wait for up to 110 weeks to see their gynecologist for the first time. 

The Department of Health told BBC News NI that they are aware of the long wait times, and the impact on women’s lives, and are ready to do whatever it takes to fix the problem. Extended delays in medical care have led many women to face unnecessary complications and undergo avoidable surgeries. The lack of accountability within departments in hospitals adds to the concern in this life-threatening situation. Numerous women dealing with conditions like endometriosis, incontinence, and dysmenorrhea endure months of waiting for treatment, causing severe complications and impacting other organs.

The review suggests improvements, including the Department of Health endorsing a single gynaecological patient tracking list. All five trusts should urgently create a strategy to address waiting lists. The review also recommends making planned surgeries more resilient and remaining open during winter. Hospitals like Daisy Hill, Causeway, and Omagh should prioritize outpatient procedures and day-case gynaecological surgeries for increased efficiency. 

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