Hospital corridor

Waiting Times

We will aim to see you as soon as possible but depending on how urgent your condition is, you may have to wait a while for your appointment.

Your waiting time will depend on the service that you have been referred to and your individual needs as patients are managed and treated by clinical priority.

What happens when we receive your referral?

When we receive a referral, a specialist will review your case and decide the level of clinical priority.  You will then be placed on a waiting list until you can be seen by the relevant clinical professional.  When you are at the top of the waiting list, we will offer you an appointment, which may be face to face or virtual.

The booking process should be carried out in line with the regional Integrated Elective Access Protocol.

How are patients prioritised?

Patients on our waiting lists are prioritised based on the clinical urgency of the treatment.

  • Red flag appointments are allocated to patients with suspected cancer diagnosis and are the highest priority.
  • Urgent appointments are allocated to patients with urgent care needs other than cancer.
  • Routine appointments are allocated to patients who require a non-urgent appointment.

Your referrer should tell you if they have referred your case as red flag, urgent or routine but the priority may be changed by the clinician in the Trust who is reviewing the referrals.

How will I know if I’m on the waiting list? 

If you have been referred to one of the Northern Trust services below, you will receive a text message or letter acknowledging receipt of your referral.

  • General Outpatients (All medical/surgical specialties)
  • Addictions Service
  • Children’s Services
  • Community Mental Health Teams
  • Condition Management Programme
  • Forensic Mental Health Services
  • Orthoptics
  • Paediatric Speech and Language Therapy
  • Inpatient and Day Case Procedures
  • Post-COVID Multidisciplinary Team
  • Psychological Services
  • Speech and Language Therapy
  • Wellness Hubs

If you have been referred to one of the Northern Trust services below, we will be in touch when you are at the top of the waiting list.

  • Clinical Physiology
  • Community Occupational Therapy
  • Dietetics
  • Mental Health Services for Older People
  • Orthopaedic ICATS
  • Physiotherapy
  • Podiatry
  • Radiology
  • Wheelchair Services

How long will I have to wait?

It is difficult to tell you exactly how long you will have to wait as lists change daily and are based on clinical priority, however we can provide you with average waiting times.

The average waiting times are published on My Waiting Times NI and are updated on the first Thursday of each month.  This webpage provides average waiting times for new outpatient assessments, elective treatments and endoscopy procedures within each Trust.

Where can I check the waiting times?

  • Visit My Waiting Times NI
  • Search the Health and Social Care Trust that is managing your care
  • Access outpatient waiting times for specialties
  • Select the specialty you are waiting for
  • Access the average waiting times

Average waiting times display in level of priority, e.g. red flag, urgent or routine

How soon will I get an appointment?

When you are at the top of the waiting list, we will contact you to arrange an appointment.  The appointment may be face to face or a virtual.  For some specialties, a fixed appointment date and time will be given.

We will send you a letter to confirm the specialty, date, time and location for your appointment.

Can I get a cancellation appointment?

If a patient cancels, we offer the appointment to the next person on the waiting list.

Can I cancel or change my appointment?

Yes, if you wish to cancel or change your appointment, please contact us on the telephone number provided on your letter. Alternatively, you can contact the switchboard at Antrim Area Hospital on 028 9442 4000 or Causeway Hospital on 028 7032 7032 and be transferred to the relevant booking office or service.

What do I do if I cannot attend my appointment?

If you cannot attend on the date and time offered, please let us know as soon as possible.

Please phone the telephone number provided on your letter. Alternatively, contact our switchboard in Antrim on 028 9442 4000 or Causeway Hospital on 028 7032 7032.

If you fail to turn up for your appointment without letting us know in advance, you will be classed as DNA (Did Not Attend) and will be referred back to your GP.  If you still feel you need to be seen, you will need to consult your GP again and seek re-referral.

Every month around 10 percent of patients fail to turn up for their appointment.  It is estimated that each outpatient appointment costs around £160, so if you miss your slot you are not only wasting health service time but also costing the health service money too. Using up another GP slot is also wasteful and means another patient will not be able to get an appointment so please either attend for your appointment or let us know if you cannot attend.

I haven’t received any communications, who should I contact?

If you haven’t heard from the Trust, please contact us 028 9442 4000 or 028 7032 7032 and ask to be put through to relevant booking office or service to check the status of your referral.

We will not remove you from the waiting list unless you advise us or do not respond to our messages or letters.

Whilst waiting for an appointment, we may contact you to check if you wish to remain on the waiting list.

If my condition gets worse whilst I’m waiting, who should I contact?

If your clinical condition changes, please notify your GP who can arrange an updated referral to the Trust.  A specialist in the Trust will review your updated referral and decide the level of clinical priority. Please note, your GP cannot speed up your appointment for any other reason.

If waiting times are shorter in another Health and Social Care Trust, can I move to their list?

Patients will receive their treatment in order of clinical priority. Moving to another hospital or Trust does not mean that you will receive treatment any quicker and, in some circumstances, could mean having to repeat certain tests, investigations or appointments which would mean waiting longer.  We would encourage patients to remain under the care of their existing hospital. Should capacity become available elsewhere to be treated earlier, then the hospital will be in touch with patients directly to discuss the options.

Why is the average waiting time for urgent patients longer than routine patients in certain specialties?  

There are particular specialties / sub specialties where the number of urgent referrals are relatively small. Any delay in booking these appointments e.g. due to a hospital or patient cancellation, could mean that the average urgent waiting time appears longer than the routine waiting time in that particular month.

I no longer require treatment, how do I request removal from the waiting list?

Patients sometimes request to be removed from the waiting list because they have been treated in another Trust or privately or they no longer need the appointment.  If you no longer require treatment, please phone the contact telephone number on your letter or our switchboard on 028 9442 4000 or 028 7032 7032 and ask to be put through to relevant booking office or service.

Who do I contact if my personal details have changed?

Please contact us if there are any changes to your name, address or telephone number – phone the telephone number provided on your letter or our switchboard on 028 9442 4000 or 028 7032 7032 and ask to be put through to relevant booking office or service.

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