Northern Ireland

NI Health: Simon Hamilton criticised by man waiting two years for surgery

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Media captionEugene Kennedy has been waiting two years for surgery on his shoulders and 12 months for a knee operation

Northern Ireland's Health Minister has been criticised by a man who has been on a waiting list for surgery for two years.

On Sunday, Simon Hamilton announced that an extra £30m pounds would be made available in the next financial year to try to tackle waiting lists.

That is on top of the £40m he announced in November.

Eugene Kennedy has been waiting two years for surgery on his shoulders and 12 months for a knee operation.

The 56-year-old, who lives in Antrim, said he wrote to the health minister three weeks ago.

"We have not felt the benefit of £40m. It hasn't come to our door," he said.

"I have had nothing back - not even an acknowledgement that the letter was received.

"We need somebody to run the damn thing like a business and get business like.

"Stop this waste and fix the damn thing once and for all."

Image caption Simon Hamilton insists the impact of the £40m is starting to be felt

The BBC understands that while most of the £40m is being spent on patients, less than two thirds has actually gone on tackling waiting lists.

But the health minister insists the impact of the £40m is starting to be felt.

"We are already seeing that impacting on waiting lists," he said.

"Yes, they're high but they are starting to go down. Provisional figures from the end of February show there's been a decrease in those waiting for longer than the targeted times for inpatient and outpatient appointments.

Image caption Economist John Simpson said long-term solutions are needed

"I want to keep that momentum going."

Economist John Simpson said long-term solutions are needed.

"This has to be delivered for the tens of thousands of people and this has to be delivered for them as well as the individuals," he said.

Image caption Dr George O'Neill is a GP in west Belfast

"We have put ourselves in an almost impossible position. We have almost eroded the value of the health service in the last number of years. Now is the time for a careful but fairly efficient delivery of a system that ensures we don't build up waiting lists again.

Dr George O'Neill is a GP in west Belfast. He said leadership is needed.

"This is just a band aid - this is not a quick fix," he said.

"Can we not get health out of politics? Can we not move on where we all come together to improve the health service. It can be done, there's a willingness not only in the community but in those who deliver health and social care.

"Unless we do this we will go from disaster to disaster."

Eugene Kennedy said all he wants is help.

"All I want is this sorted so that I can moved forward with my life. At the moment, I can't move forward with my life," he said.

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