A FLINTSHIRE couple have blasted the bureaucracy of the national health system following ‘a battle sifting through the red tape’.

Barry Gillespie and wife Jane, from the Mold area, say they are ‘angry’ about how they have been treated during Mr Gillespie’s battle with bladder cancer.

Mr Gillespie, 75, says he has been left uncertain since August as to whether urgent treatment to remove a tumour was going to happen.

He has a complicated form of bladder cancer and requires an urgent operation to remove the tumour - after chemotherapy reduced its size significantly.

Since August Mr and Mrs Gillespie have faced a nervous wait to see if the tumour has spread - with his last scan being seven weeks ago.

In the recent past, North Walian patients were referred to the Royal Liverpool Broad Green Hospital for bladder cancer treatment. However, due to ‘staffing difficulties’, the hospital no longer accepts Welsh patients.

The Leader:

Barry and Jane Gillespie pictured with one of the dozens of letters they have received in the process of trying to organise for surgery to take place

The only Welsh alternative is the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport.

Mr Gillespie said he therefore enquired about the possibility of having the operation in the North West for convenience purposes in a letter dated August 21, from which they say Betsi Cadwaladr inferred incorrectly that he was ruling out an operation at Newport.

This is despite stating that he wanted ‘to obtain the best possible treatment for (his) condition’ and that if this could be obtained more locally he would ‘regard it as an additional benefit’.

However the case was reviewed and it was decided that Royal Gwent would be the place the operation would take place.

The decision that surgery was going to be needed was confirmed in a consultation on September 12. An IPFR (indepedent patient funding request) application for this to take place in Newport was prepared, and submitted on September 19, Mr Gillespie understood.

However, Mr Gillespie - through Delyn MP David Hanson - became aware that Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester may be a able to undertake the operation.

But soon after it became clear that Christie Hospital could not perform the surgery as arrangements for surgery across Manchester have now been reorganised as part of the Manchester partnership.

Mr Gillespie was directed towards the Manchester Foundation Trust, which informed him an operation could be done.

But Mr Gillespie says no timescale was confirmed as to when the operation would take place, with time - or the lack of it - being of the essence.

The Gillespies say a letter they received from Mr Hanson on behalf of Christie NHS Foundation Trust indicated that commissioners at health boards - including Betsi Cadwaladr - across the country were informed 12 months ago that Christie Hospital would no longer be undertaking the type of surgery Mr Gillespie requires.

It was then that Mr Gillespie sought - with no alternative - to have the urgent operation at the Royal Gwent Hospital.

He says an IPFR meeting was scheduled at Wrexham Maelor on October 9, but had heard nothing on the outcome of the meeting in the following days.

Mr and Mrs Gillespie say in this time, the lack of communication between the health boards and themselves has been ‘appalling’.

Mrs Gillespie said: “We have no issue at all with the quality of treatment Barry’s received, it’s been brilliant.

“But I’m so angry with the way he’s been treated by the powers that be. The lack of basic communication has caused us so much stress and angst.”

Mr Gillespie said he saw his oncology consultant on September 12, who told him he should have the operation no later than two weeks after their meeting.

Betsi Cadwaladr says it has ‘reached agreement’ with Aneurin Bevan Health Board in South Wales for the operation to go ahead at the Royal Gwent Hospital.

But no confirmation of this has yet been received by Mr Gillespie.

As of Wednesday (October 16) Mr Gillespie was under the impression that the Royal Gwent Hospital had still not received the referral for treatment.

Even when the hospital receives the referral, the Gillespies have been told they would need a consultation appointment in Newport - meaning surgery will likely take place in a time scale in weeks, rather than days.

The couple say they don’t want other families having to go through what they have.

Mrs Gillespie said: “With time being the crucial factor in all this, I can’t describe how difficult it’s been to have been kept waiting without knowing where the surgery will take place and whether it will happen at all.

“The standard of treatment has been brilliant, but the amount of time spent being sent from pillar to post is not good enough - in fact it’s a shambles.”

A Betsi Cadwaladr spokesman said: “This type of surgery for North Wales residents was previously undertaken in Liverpool, but due to staffing difficulties they had to withdraw from the contract earlier this year. Unfortunately none of the other hospitals in the North West of England that undertake this highly specialist surgery had sufficient capacity to commit to accepting referrals from North Wales during the current financial year.

“In the meantime, as an interim measure, we have reached agreement with Aneurin Bevan Health Board for this surgery to take place at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, with funding arranged via the IPFR process.

“We recognise that this interim arrangement has resulted in a small number of patients like Mr Gillespie travelling a considerable distance for surgery. While this is regrettable, it has been necessary to ensure that patients have their operations promptly.

“We have made concerted efforts to find a way to accommodate Mr Gillespie’s request for treatment more locally, and while the delays that have occurred have not been of the health board’s making, we apologise for the worry and frustration this has caused to Mr Gillespie and his family.”

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust declined to comment on the matter.