The number of patients waiting to see a hospital consultant has reached a new record high of almost 570,000.
Patient advocate, Stephen McMahon, said the latest figure from the National Treatment Purchase Fund showed that the Government was failing to tackle the situation.
Mr McMahon, who is chairman and founder of the Irish Patients’ Association, said it also illustrated the huge inequality in the healthcare system.
“It is a major cause of concern that there are 106,786 people alone waiting over 18 months to see a consultant,” he said.
“To have a situation where people are waiting in pain for so long for public hospital treatment is unacceptable.”
Mr McMahon said that there did not seem to be any urgency to sort the problem that had been allowed to deteriorate over the year.
Mr McMahon said the Government had to show they were committed to getting people seen by a consultant in a timely way.
Last month 569,498 patients were waiting for their first outpatient consultation in a public hospital, compared to 564,829 at the end of July.
There were 177,748 people waiting more than a year to see a consultant and they made up over 30% of the total number.
The NTPF pointed out that 21,000 of those waiting between 15 and 18 months and 5,055 of those waiting over 18 months have an appointment within the next six weeks.
There are 22,544 patients waiting to receive an appointment for a gastrointestinal endoscopy, a slight decrease on the 22,592 waiting at the end of July.
There were 68,390 patients waiting for their inpatient or day-case treatment last month compared to 68,807 the previous month.
President of the Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association, Dr Donal O’Hanlon, said there seemed to be no end of the record numbers waiting to see a hospital consultant, with 53,336 patients added to the outpatient list already this year.
Dr O’Hanlon said the consultant recruitment and retention crisis, with one in five permanent consultant posts now unfilled, was a key factor in the long waiting times patients now faced and must be addressed by the Government.