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FOCUS: "Hopeless" dermatology patients face waits over six months

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Tuesday 05 March 2024

FOCUS: "Hopeless" dermatology patients face waits over six months

Tuesday 05 March 2024


A full review of the dermatology service is set to be undertaken after it emerged that more than 750 patients have been waiting over six months for a first appointment – with some forced to shell out thousands for private care to stop their skin conditions from worsening during the wait.

New data which reveals a snapshot of the current new referral waiting list position shows that a total of 630 patients have been waiting between six months and a year for a dermatology appointment – with a further 125 islanders waiting over a year.

It was published as part of the latest Health and Community Services Advisory Board pack, which was discussed at a board meeting last week.

The target for a new patient referral to be seen within is 90 days as per the current access policy.

But the latest statistics show that over half of patients on the new referral list for all Health departments are waiting over 90 days for their first outpatient appointment.

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Pictured: The table is a snapshot of the new referral waiting list position as of 12 February 2024.

The data reveals that dermatology is the department with the second longest wait lists – behind the ophthalmology department, which has had ongoing concerns about long waits.

A "fragile service"

The recent HCS Board report acknowledges that dermatology is "recognised as a fragile service across the UK".

It explains: "Lack of training over a prolonged period of time has reduced the number of candidates applying for this specialist role.

"The impact of this on HCS dermatology service [in Jersey] has meant an inability to maintain a sustainable service over recent years with patients experiencing extensive waits to be seen."

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Pictured:  Additional resources – including a dedicated GP with interest in dermatology, and the introduction of extra clinics – were employed in October.

The HCS Board has also committed to a full review of the dermatology service.

A report will be produced by the end of April 2024, with recommendations provided to support the sustainability of the department.

"Complete assurance" urgent patients will be seen

Despite the concerns, the Board said that "weekly validation" had provided "complete assurance" that all urgent patients are being seen within four weeks.

"...As the cancer reporting starts to evolve, there will be significant work to be done within dermatology to drive a two-week pathway," they added.

The report also reveals that Southampton Hospital has been "approached to increase support with dermatology", as part of plans to strengthen links with UK hospitals.

A "positive difference"

Health and Community Services said that there has been a "positive difference" made to the dermatology service since additional resources – including a dedicated GP with interest in dermatology, and the introduction of extra clinics – were employed in October.

A statement said: “Of the 244 cases triaged as ‘urgent’ on 9 October 2023, 230 were yet to be booked an appointment. Of the 117 cases triaged as ‘urgent’ on 21 February 2024, 20 were yet to be booked an appointment.

“Focus has been given to ‘urgent’ referrals. The number of patients waiting more than 180 days forms a large percentage of the total number as most will be triaged as ‘routine’ or ‘soon’.

“The recruitment of a dedicated GP with interest in dermatology, and the introduction of extra clinics, has put us in a position where we are able to see urgent referrals within two weeks.

"This has been further assisted by the arrival of another full-time doctor in the department in January.”

The Health department also yesterday posted a job advert for a new Consultant in Dermatology, offering an annual salary of over £100,000.

"I felt hopeless with waiting for a hospital appointment"

Phoebe*, who is in her mid-twenties, is one of the patients on the dermatology waiting list due to acne.

She had already been waiting for four months and had not even received an appointment date when she called the dermatology department for an update.

After staff confirmed that she would be waiting months longer, Phoebe decided to book a private appointment for over £350.

"I felt hopeless with waiting for a hospital appointment as my acne was really affecting my mental health and mood," she said.

"I didn’t want to go out at all as it’s affecting my self esteem. It’s affected my life."

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Pictured: "I felt hopeless with waiting for a hospital appointment as my acne was really affecting my mental health and mood," said Phoebe.

Phoebe explained that her plans to go travelling had been put on hold due to the wait for a dermatology appointment, and money that she had saved to spend on the trip was now being eaten into by the cost of private healthcare.

She added: "[This is] all whilst my acne hasn’t been kept under control and therefore leading to more scarring which is more difficult to treat.

"Scarring is more permanent and will also affect my mental health, but haven’t been able to keep it under control as can’t get the treatment until I see a dermatologist!"

An almost £2,000 bill

Phoebe explained that she is likely to need isotretinoin – more commonly known under its brand name, Accutane – to treat her acne.

She predicts it will cost her around £2,000 for a course of the treatment, with a £360 initial consultation and a £280 follow-up appointment every month for the duration of the six-month course.

"Almost £2,000 to control acne is insane, but it feels like the only way to go as you don’t hear from the Hospital dermatology department," said Phoebe.

"I understand that skin cancers are a priority but also don’t feel like it’s good enough either way!"

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity.

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