MORE than 20,000 public patients are not turning up for hospital outpatient appointments every month, despite ongoing delays of more than two years to see some specialists.
The huge number of "no shows" highlights the ongoing lack of proper organisation behind the management of these outpatient waiting lists, which can leave people who need a specialist diagnosis languishing on long queues.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) has been set a target to have nobody waiting more than a year by the end of December – but this will not be met.
The most recent figures show that 369,339 patients are on these lists in hospitals nationwide with 84,266 waiting for more than a year.
However, figures for the month of May show hospitals with the longest lists have thousands of people with appointments not turning up, causing serious disruption and denying others a place.
An analysis showed that over the course of that month, there were 3,142 patients who did not keep their outpatient appointments in the Mater Hospital in Dublin and 3,115 in St James's Hospital in the south of the city.
Another 3,045 did not turn up to Tallaght Hospital while it was as high as 2,047 in Cork University Hospital and 1,599 in Waterford Regional Hospital.
Smaller hospitals also have problems with "no shows" including Mayo General Hospital where there were 959 missed appointments, and Kerry General Hospital which had 716 people scheduled to to be seen, who failed to arrive.
The patients are in official public hospital queues to see specialist teams to assess a huge range of health complaints, including bad hips, knees, skin, eye and brain conditions.
They were slotted in to be seen at the outpatient clinics in hospitals across the country for a first-time appointment or follow-up care by the specialists.
Research shows a variety of reasons are to blame for patients not turning up – these include forgetfulness, clerical errors by hospital staff, and patients receiving treatment elsewhere, often privately without informing the hospital.