'10,000 patients left in distress as appointments cancelled'

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Concern has been expressed that more than 10,000 patients in distress due to appointment cancellations.

SDLP Health Spokesperson, Mark H Durkan, said “It is nothing short of a disgrace that in the mouth of Christmas, thousands of medical appointments have been cancelled, causing significant anxiety to families across the North.”

The Foyle MLA added: “It is an outrage that patients have been left in the lurch but it is even more of an outrage that Health Trusts are placing the blame on our staff, who have reluctantly opted for strike action as a last resort.

"Our nurses and frontline healthcare staff are at breaking point.

"The cancellation of these appointments is because nurses have made clear they would start on time, finish on time and take their entitlement of breaks.

"In what other profession would the refusal to work extra and unpaid hours lead to such widespread chaos? Frontline healthcare workers have been raising concerns about patient safety for years. This is not their fault.”

Mr Durkan added: “I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Chief Executive of the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and senior officials at the Department for Health. Patients deserve better and so do our staff.

"It is unacceptable that they are expected to work for less than their counterparts in Britain.

"We need an urgent resolution of this situation and it certainly cannot come at the expense of our staff wellbeing.”