The content of this website is intended for healthcare professionals only

BMA calls for action to tackle consultant shortage

New figures reveal over 250,000 missed hospital appointments in Northern Ireland

Mark Gould

Friday, 27 August 2010

Almost 80,000 hospital appointments in Northern Ireland have been cancelled in the past year because consultants were not free to see patients.

And more than 176,000 appointments were cancelled by patients on the day they were due to attend.

The BMA says it is concerned at the numbers of patients who fail to attend but it also calls for drastic action to tackle a serious shortage of consultants in Northern Ireland.

 Figures released yesterday by the Department for Health Social Services and Public Safety reveal that appointments were cancelled due to unavailability of consultants for 3.2 per cent of all patients seen.

A BMA Northern Ireland spokesman said:  “In terms of the figures that show that appointments were cancelled due to unavailability of consultants, the total figure of cancellations is equivalent to 3.2% of patients seen. BMA once again states that more consultants are needed in the Northern Ireland medical workforce to treat patients. The current recruitment freeze will only exacerbate the problem.

 “There will obviously be concern that the figures show that consultants have cancelled appointments although the total number of cancellations is just 1.8% of the total number of patients seen. There is no detail given in this document as to why these appointments were cancelled, although some cancellations are likely to be due to consultants taking annual leave to which they are entitled.

 “Consultants are generally required to submit leave requests a minimum of six weeks in advance, which should give the Trust sufficient time to reschedule clinics or appoint locum cover”.

BMA says it is also concerned at the number of patients who did not attend their appointments. “We understand that not all patients will be able to attend the appointment times given to them, but had these patients advised that they were unable to attend, their appointment could have been allotted to another patient.”

Registered in England and Wales. Reg No. 2530185. c/o Wilmington plc, 5th Floor, 10 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 8QS. Reg No. 30158470