300,000 wait to see consultants


Up to 350,000 people are estimated to be waiting for their first outpatient appointments to see consultants at public hospitals throughout the country, the Department of Health said today.

At at briefing on the work of the Special Delivery Unit, set up to tackle waiting times in the health service, Dr Martin Connor, consultant at the Department of Health, said the figure, of between 325,000 and 350,000 was a “best estimate”.

Live monitoring would be in place for outpatient figures by the end of July that would provide exact figures, he said.

The numbers are up to 150,000 higher than statistics recently revealed by the Health Service Executive. Earlier this month, the HSE performance reports showed almost 205,000 were waiting on hospital outpatient waiting lists. But data for some hospitals was unavailable at the time.

Dr Connor said the figures represented a “significant challenge” but were “not without hope”.

The major problem for patients at the moment was “the inordinate amount of time” spent waiting, he said. He had received reports of people waiting up to six years to be seen, though he could not verify length of waits until final figures were available.

He said tackling the outpatient lists presented two difficulties – getting patients seen by consultants as quickly as possible and treating those who might need day or inpatient care. They would have to develop capability, he said.

Dr Connor also said the numbers of people waiting on trolleys in emergency departments had been reduced. On June 15th this year, 268 people were waiting on trolleys compared to 354 last year. The figure for the year to date was just under 35,000 compared to just over 43,000 in 2011.