A new report by the British Medical Association has revealed Northern Ireland is short by almost 300 consultants within the five health trusts last year.
Through a number of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to establish “the true picture of consultant vacancies”, the BMA found there were 291 posts not filled by a permanent consultant in 2021.
They said the definition of a vacancy means results differ from vacancy data provided by the Department of Health which showed 126 consultant vacancies for the same period.
The figures in the report also showed a trend of generally increasing vacancy rates, with a decrease during the peak of the pandemic, before beginning to rise again.
However, the stark reality of recruitment challenges is emphasised in the FoI figures, which show 131 total posts not filled by a permanent consultant in 2018, before this figure approaches almost 300 by last year.
Last month it was revealed a range of operations will no longer be carried out at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry as a result of recruitment issues and a lack of consultant surgeons.
Speaking at the time general colorectal surgeon Kevin McElvanna highlighted the issues around recruitment, explaining there has been a “revolving door of surgeons” at Daisy Hill and other hospitals in Northern Ireland.
“We’re running a sub-optimal service across two sites, with big issues for recruitment, retention and training of staff, there’s been a revolving door of surgeons, particularly on the Daisy Hill site for a long number of years.
“There is a need for change, there’s no doubt, we have an inequitable service, an unsustainable service at that and we need to change.”
The Department of Health has been approached for comment.