Northern Ireland

Neurology appointment waiting list doubles in four years

doctor and patient Image copyright Getty Images/wutwhanfoto

The number of people waiting for a first neurology outpatient appointment has more than doubled in Northern Ireland in the past four years.

In March 2015, 9,123 patients were waiting, but by 2019, that figure had risen to 19,376.

More than 11,000 patients have also been waiting more than one year to be seen.

The Department of Health said it was hoping to secure additional funding for more junior doctors in neurology.

The information was released by the department as part of a review of neurology services.

Neurological conditions include strokes or acquired brain injuries as well as more unpredictable conditions like epilepsy or multiple sclerosis (MS).

Staff shortages across the neurology workforce is also an issue with "insufficient consultant neurologists to deliver a 24/7 on call rota on any site other that the Royal Victoria Hospital".

The Department of Health's interim review paints a depressing picture, with waiting times, staff shortages and the considerable backlog of patients emphasising the need for change.

The interim review says staff shortages also extend to nursing staff with Northern Ireland having significantly fewer epilepsy, MS and Parkinson's disease specialist nurses than is recommended by healthcare guidelines.

To tackle waiting list figures and modernise services, the Health and Social Care Board is attempting to secure and fund additional training places in neurology for junior doctors.

There are also a number of different training and multi-disciplinary pathways being developed.

The review is expected to identify an optimal service configuration of neurology services through to 2035.

Patients and carers are being consulted about the future role of technology, new models of care and training.

More on this story