Hospitals cancel 16,524 appointments

Craigavon Area Hospital. INLM02-110gc
Craigavon Area Hospital. INLM02-110gc

Hospitals across the Southern Trust, including South Tyrone and Craigavaon Area are cancelling more and more appointments, leading to fears of longer waiting times that will affect thousands of patients.

During 2014/15. a total of 16,524 local patients missed appointments or operations because their consultant wasn’t available, rising from 15,452 the previous year.

One of the reasons for the high number is the extreme pressures faced by Southern Trust hospitals during the past winter.

The Department of Health described its own performance as “disappointing”, and revealed that 168,555 outpatient appointments were cancelled by hospitals across all five health trusts in 2014/15.

This compared to 167,230 the year before.

It also showed that 9,794 day case appointments, including ear nose and throat and dermatology treatments, were also cancelled.

The number of hospital beds has also dropped by 10% in the last five years despite admissions rising by 4.3%, or more than 25,000 people.

There were 6,034 beds in 2015 - 691 fewer than there were in 2011.

A Department of Health spokesperson called on the health board and health trusts to do all they can to minimise the level of appointments cancelled by consultants.

There has also been a notable increase in the number of people being admitted to hospitals in Northern Ireland.

Since 2011, admissions are up by 4.3% or more than 25,000 people.

In spite of the increase, there are almost 700 fewer hospital beds across the system.

The statistics also show Northern Ireland’s health service lost about £16m last year because patients failed to attend hospital appointments.

According to the Department of Health, every time someone fails to turn up for a hospital appointment it costs the health service about £108.

Newly published hospital statistics show that about 147,500 patients did not keep their appointments last year.

Those patients also failed to alert staff in advance that they would not attend, meaning resources were wasted.

Considering £1m could employ 35 full-time nurses, or allow 150 people to have their hip operation, health service commissioners would argue that the public should be more responsible.