Page last updated at 13:46 GMT, Thursday, 4 September 2008 14:46 UK

Man tells of ear wax woes

By Dot Kirby
BBC NI health correspondent

Some GPs will not syringe patient's ears

He lives in constant pain - and the health service told him he'd have to stay that way for at least three months.

But Brian Higginson isn't a man to take no for an answer.

And, on his own, he's short-circuited the health system.

Brian, from Burnside Road in Doagh, needs wax syringed out of one of his ears.

Twice in the last three years, his GP in Ballyclare has got rid of the build-up.

But when Brian rang his health centre a month ago for another appointment, he got a shock.

"They said they'd stopped doing it because a GP practice in England perforated someone's eardrum during the procedure and they had to pay out compensation," says Brian.

Brian says he's in constant pain, has a permanent buzzing in his head, has difficulty sleeping and, of course, he's hard of hearing.

"I work in a shop and I have difficulty hearing what the customers are saying," he said.

His GP practice told him he'd been referred to Antrim Area Hospital.

But when he rang the hospital to ask when he would be getting an appointment, the hospital said it had received no referral.

A letter was then faxed from Ballyclare Group Practice to the hospital.

But when Brian rang on Tuesday, he was told by the hospital that it was a routine referral and that meant he'd have to wait 13 weeks to be seen.

"But that appointment would just be for a consultant to look in my ear and say 'Yes you have wax in your ear which we need to suck out'," he said.

"I'd then have to wait even longer to actually get it done."

He found out that if he went privately, the initial consultation would cost 140.

"I wasn't prepared to pay that - because I was then going to need another appointment to actually get the problem sorted," he said.

Ever resourceful, Brian set up to short-circuit the health service.

He was able to find a number of practices where GPs still saw patients to syringe their ears.

"I have an appointment next Tuesday at a practice in Templepatrick. They say they'll syringe my ear within a week," he said.

No-one from Ballyclare Group Practice was available to comment.

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