Delays put patients back at square one
HUNDREDS of patients sent for private treatment because they spent too long on public waiting lists ended up being seen by the same doctor who had not been able to treat them in the first place.
The State's spending watchdog found that €13.5m was spent last year on private treatments for public patients.
It found that one in 12 of these was seen by the same public hospital specialist who had referred them to the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) initially.
The NTPF arranges private care for public patients waiting the longest and pays a global fee to the treating hospital, which can be split with the doctor.
"For 8.5pc of the treatments, the consultants referring and treating the patient were the same," the Comptroller's report said.
And 3.7pc of these treatments were provided in a public rather than private hospital. The main specialties involved were orthopaedics and cardiology.
It also found that nearly one-third of those who received a private appointment in an outpatients clinic were seen in a public hospital at a cost of €643,000.
Hospitals that treated their own public patients 'in-house' for a private fee included Cappagh Orthopaedic Hospital, Dublin; Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin; Merlin Park, Galway; Navan Hospital; and the Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin.
The NTPF can refer 10pc of its patients to public hospitals; last year 4.5pc of in-patient treatments were performed there.
A spokesman for the NTPF said yesterday that as a general rule, patients who are treated under the NTPF are not looked after by the same consultant on whose public list they are waiting. "However, in a small number of cases this is necessary for medical reasons."