The ISF is extremely concerned that new GP patient referrals, seeking access to dermatology services at Temple Street Children’s Hospital, are now being added to an additional waiting list due to a lack of specialist medical capacity at the hospital.
Dermatology referrals into Temple Street now fall into one of three categories: urgent cases, cases on the waiting list with an appointment and cases on a waiting list with no appointment. Effectively this means that there is now a waiting list to join the waiting list.
Services at Temple Street are already operating without an in-house consultant dermatologist due to the unscheduled leave of two part-time consultants. This latest development is extremely unwelcome and directly affects the care of 1,200-300 paediatric patients, who cannot secure a place on the waiting list.
No suitable candidate has applied for a six-month locum sick-leave-cover post in paediatric dermatology at Temple Street (first advertised in March 2014). This is a disaster for hundreds of families waiting for a first appointment for dermatology assessments and treatments under a specialist physician.
Paediatric Services Arrangements
Temple Street Children’s Hospital has advised parents with a child on the waiting list that a date for an appointment will be provided as soon as the service has been resumed “in late spring 2015”. In the meantime, access to the waiting list for a first appointment has effectively been closed. Ultimately, this will cause additional pressure on paediatric dermatology services in other centres and delay patient care.
Patients on the waiting list with an appointment will be seen by a Senior NCHD (Non Consultant Hospital Doctor) in Temple Street in consultation with the Paediatric Cross Hospitals Dermatology Lead based in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin, where services are described as fully operational. Some patients on the waiting list have reported cancellations of appointments, which have been rescheduled for later in 2015.
Recruitment of Specialist Physicians
The ISF is calling on stakeholders in government and consultant representative bodies to renew efforts to resolve issues causing the recruitment and retention crisis in specialist branches of medicine such as dermatology.
Paediatric dermatology services are currently unavailable locally in counties Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny. In the adult service in the south east and midlands, some patients have reported that GP referrals to centres in Dublin are refused based on the patients living outside of the hospital’s “catchment area”.
The Department of Health has made it clear that “catchment areas” have no legal basis and has reminded hospital management and consultants that they have a responsibility to recommend alternative avenues of care to GPs where referrals are refused.
Parents who have concerns about their child’s skin condition should consult their GP or seek the advice of GP with a special interest in dermatology.
The ISF is planning to open a patient Helpline in the coming months and can provide advice from a specialist nurse by appointment.