Pensioner in pain faces seven-month wait to see consultant

James Neilson has waited seven months for an appointment.  Picture: Ian Rutherford

James Neilson has waited seven months for an appointment. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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EX-MINER James Neilson suffers excruciating pain every time he walks – but he has been told he will have to wait seven months to see a consultant about a blocked artery in his leg.

“It’s really frightening,” he said. “Because of the condition, the longer it’s left untreated you wonder what’s going to happen and whether something major needs to be done.

“I can only walk short distances – just 40 or 50 feet – and the pain comes on. It’s very severe and it doesn’t disappear when I stop. It can be more than half an hour before it subsides.”

Mr Neilson’s case was raised in the Scottish Parliament by Scottish Labour leader and Lothian MSP Kezia Dugdale as she quizzed Nicola Sturgeon about an audit report on the state of the health service at First Minister’s Questions.

Ms Dugdale said a decade of SNP control of the NHS had produced a grim diagnosis. “Funding is not keeping pace with increasing demand and patient need. Only one of eight key targets has been met. A workforce crisis that has been brewing for years is getting worse.”

Ms Sturgeon insisted the health budget was now £3 billion higher than when the SNP came to power; there were 11,000 more staff; and in-patient and out-patient waiting times were both lower.

But Ms Dugdale detailed Mr Neilson’s plight to the chamber. “We have heard the First Minister reel off a lot of statistics. Will she explain to Mr Neilson why, under her government, he has to wait seven months to see a consultant?”

Ms Sturgeon said she would ask the Health Secretary to look at Mr Neilson’s case.

Labour said in the past he could have been treated at St John’s Hospital, Livingston, but vascular services there had been closed down.

Mr Neilson, a former NUM delegate at Polkemmet pit, lives on his own and finds his activities limited by the pain in his leg. “It’s frustrating,” he said. “I can only manage with the help of friends to get about.”

He does not know whether having his case raised in parliament will make any difference. “I can only hope – but I’m not holding my breath.”

Dr David Farquharson, medical director, NHS Lothian, said: “Unfortunately, a number of patients are waiting longer than we would like for appointments with the vascular service and I would like to apologise for this.

“There are two consultant posts vacant within the department and this has had an impact on the number of patients we can see.

“We have recently appointed two new consultants and expect them to take up post early in the new year. In the meantime, our dedicated team is working hard to prioritise patients and minimise waiting times.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com