Fury as pensioners told to ‘go private’

Mrs Wares says the pain is getting her down
Mrs Wares says the pain is getting her down

A St Andrews pensioner wracked with ear pain has claimed that patients at the town’s Memorial Hospital are being told to ‘go private’ .

Helen Wares (78) of Lamberton Place, contacted the Citizen in frustration after she was told that she faced a waiting list of at least a month to have her ears syringed.

She said that hospital staff told her she’d have to go private if she wanted relief from the pain any sooner.

Anxious to have her discomfort eased, she’s arranged an appointment with a private hearing specialist that charges £40 to syringe one ear and £60 for two.

“I am fortunate that I can afford to have the procedure done privately,” said Mrs Wares.

“But there are many pensioners who can’t and they shouldn’t have to.

“It’s shocking to be told that you have to wait for a month to be seen and even more shocking to hear NHS staff telling you to go private.

“When I first went to the doctor with an ear infection I was told to soften the wax in my ear, which I did for about three weeks.

“I was also on medication for two weeks because of the pain.

“When I went back I got a different doctor, and assumed the syringing would also be done in the hospital.

“ But when I went to make the appointment, they told me there were no appointments at all for at least a month.

“I was shocked when they told me ‘you’d better go private’.”

Helen’s friend, who wished to remain anonymous, was so outraged that she contacted North East Fife MP Stephen Gethins.

“I am furious on behalf of Helen and all the other pensioners who are affected by this,” she said.

“Since when has the NHS been in the business of touting for custom for the private sector?

“It’s beyond belief that patients are either having to go private or spend weeks suffering from pain.”

Although health is a devolved matter, Mr Gethins vowed to do what he could to help.

He said: “This is clearly an unreasonable situation and I have written to both the Health Minister and the Chief Executive of NHS Fife about this case.

“ I look forward to getting an explanation. In the meantime my office has been in touch with Mrs Wares to offer all the assistance we can provide during this difficult period.”

A spokesman for NHS Fife told us: “NHS Fife has been made aware of this matter and it is currently under further investigation.

“We would encourage anyone experiencing considerable pain their ears to contact their GP as soon as possible, as there may be underlying issue, such as infection”.