Thousands of people have been denied hospital appointments with consultants because the Western Trust was forced to cancel, the Sentinel can reveal.
A staggering 30,000 consultant-led appointments were cancelled by the Western Trust over the course of just 15 months.
Figures from the Department of Health show that between July 2013 and September 2014 more than 10,000 appointments were cancelled because consultants were unavailable. During the same 15 month period of time, consultants themselves stepped in to cancel 3,000 appointments.
Almost 2,000 more were cancelled by the Trust because medical staff were not available for the appointment.
Other reasons for the cancellations included hospital transport being unavailable and administrative errors on the part of either GPs or hospitals, while further cancellations followed a validation or audit.
Other reasons for the cancellations included the appointment being pushed back or brought forward; the patient being treated elsewhere, or the appointment being cancelled in order for it to be booked again.
The figures were outlined by Health Minister Jim Wells in response to a query from West Tyrone MLA Thomas Buchanan.
Mr Buchanan asked: “How many patient appointments have been cancelled by doctors/consultants in the Western Health and Social Care Trust in each of the last three years?”
The Minister replied: “The information shows the number of consultant-led appointments cancelled by the Western HSC Trust between 1st July 2013 to 31st March 2014 and provisional data for the period April 1 to September 30, 2014.
“The data has been provided broken down by ‘reason for cancellation’ as there are a number of reasons why an outpatient appointment may be cancelled by the hospital.
“Figures do not include patient cancelled appointments.
“Due to the variable ‘reason for cancellation’ only being made mandatory from March 2013 and changes as to how the variable was recorded, data prior to July 2013 is not comparable.”
Figures that had been previously released by the Department of Health showed, in May 2013, that more than 100,000 hospital appointments had been cancelled by the Western Trust in three years.
The figure includes 60,000 cancellations due to either consultants or medical staff being unavailable or because consultants themselves cancelled.