400,000 wait to see hospital consultant

The number of people waiting for a first-time appointment to see a hospital consultant in an outpatient department is headed towards 400,000, including more than 12,000 people who are waiting more than four years.

The figures, contained in a HSE performance monitoring report, show that more than 25,000 patients have been awaiting an initial appointment with a consultant for between two and three years. An additional 65,571 have been waiting one to two years. When the two figures are combined, more than 90,000 people have been waiting in excess of one year for an initial appointment which shows the size of the challenge Health Minister James Reilly faces.

Dr Reilly has set himself a target whereby no patient waits more than one year for an outpatient appointment by the end of 2013.

As of Oct 26, 388,438 people were on outpatient waiting lists waiting to see a consultant for the first time.

A supplementary HSE report gives a breakdown of the volume of patients waiting to see consultants at outpatient departments in hospitals nationwide.

According to the October report, University College Hospital Galway has, at 46,741, the largest number of patients awaiting such appointments. The figure includes more than 10,000 patients who are waiting two to four years. The report does not indicate what speciality the patients are waiting to be referred to.

The Adelaide and Meath National Children’s Hospital in Tallaght has the second highest number of people — more than 30,000 — waiting to see a consultant in the outpatients department for the first time. Of these, 466 patients are waiting three to four years.

Other hospitals with large OP waiting lists include:

* Waterford Regional, where the total number waiting is close to 26,000, of whom more than 3,500 are waiting two to four years and 1,076 are waiting more than four years

* Mid Western Regional Hospital, Dooradoyle, Limerick, where the total number is 23,434, including 2,901 people waiting more than four years

* Cork University Hospital, where the total number is 22,454, including in excess of 5,000 patients waiting one to three years and 60 people waiting more than four years

Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, also has a high volume of patients waiting to see a consultant in its outpatients department for the first time. The overall figure is almost 15,000, that includes 3,622 children waiting one to two years, 370 waiting two to three years and 53 of whom are waiting three to four years.

Tony O’Brien, director general designate of the HSE, has already conceded that “too many people are waiting far too long” to get outpatient appointments. He has blamed the delays on waste in the system, and the number of non-attendances at outpatient departments.

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