This is at a time when the Government says it has made obesity a public health priority and as it prepares to publish an Obesity Policy and Action Plan.
In April, a report in The Lancet claimed Ireland and the UK were set to become the most obese countries in Europe within a decade.
HSE figures show 1,174 people awaiting outpatient appointments at the weight management service in St Columcille’s Hospital in Loughlinstown where the average waiting time is two years and eight months.
Patients who require weight loss (bariatric) surgery are referred to St Vincent’s University Hospital where 308 patients are on a waiting list, less than one tenth of whom will be operated on this year.
In a statement the hospital said: “It is hoped that 30 operations will be carried out this year”, and that it is “processing a new surgical appointment which we hope will alleviate some of the pressure on waiting times”.
Patients referred for surgery have generally exhausted all other weight-loss options and their health is under serious threat.
In University Hospital Galway, the only other public hospital service, consultant endocrinologist Dr Francis Finucane said patients wait up to 15 months to see him, followed by another 15 months to see a psychologist. He is currently seeing up to 1,500 patients in his clinics annually, including 400 new referrals.
Approximately one third have type 2 diabetes. Those in need of bariatric surgery, known to cause remission of type 2 diabetes, face an additional two to three-year wait. There are currently 338 patients on his waiting list, approximately half of whom may be suitable for bariatric surgery. However so far this year, just 10 operations have been carried out.
“It is actually embarrassing to have to tell patients who have been waiting over a year for a first appointment that they might be waiting years more for the psychological or medical or surgical care that they need,” Dr Finucane said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said publication of the Obesity Policy and Action Plan is “a priority for the department”.