Consultant warns of impact on children as over 100,000 on waiting lists

Gabrielle Colleran said one pre-teen was told they could not get an appointment until 2035

Delays in assessing hearing and speech delays could have a massive impact on a child’s development , the consultant said. Photograph: iStock

Delays in assessing hearing and speech delays could have a massive impact on a child’s development , the consultant said. Photograph: iStock

 

A consultant paediatric radiologist has told of the case of a pre-teen referred to her with a neurological condition who was told they could not get an appointment until 2035.

Dr Gabrielle Colleran told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show that such a delay was farcical and was a huge source of frustration for the profession as well as the families involved.

Dr Colleran, who is also vice president of the Irish Hospitals Consultants Association, added that at present there were 106,000 children on waiting lists for treatment, assessment and diagnostic tests and that delays were having a serious impact on children’s development and overall outcomes.

There were 8,000 children waiting for CT scans, ultrasounds or MRI scans which was delaying the diagnosis of conditions such as autism, hearing loss and speech problems, she said.

Delays in assessing hearing and speech delays could have a massive impact on a child’s development and an impact on how children were socialising and learning in schools, she said. There were “huge consequences across a lifespan if we let children down at this early stage.”

Staff “on the sticky edge of the wedge” were frustrated and demoralised at the negative impact of delayed access to diagnostic and assessment services. Every child and adult should be able to access care “in a timely fashion” in less than six weeks, she added. “We just have to do better.”

Dr Colleran said while there was much talk about waiting lists, there was a lack of action to implement solutions. “We need the right staff and beds to provide timely care.” In the meantime there were 727 consultant posts unfilled, she said. “At some time this has to be fixed.”

Paediatric outpatient waiting list figures for the end of August show there were 85,950 childrenon waiting list of whom more than a third were waiting over 18 months. Among the specialties with the largest waiting lists were Otolaryngology (ENT) with 12,052 and Ear Nose and Throat (6,161) .