Monday 25 September 2017

Referred patients waiting. . . to get on a waiting list

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

ALL patients referred to Tallaght Hospital to see a specialist are still not guaranteed to get an appointment.

The confirmation yesterday follows an inquiry which found that over 2,000 patients -- referred by their GPs -- were queueing to get an appointment to see a range of specialists and be placed on the official waiting list at the hospital.

The inquiry team, led by former Northern Ireland Ombudsman Maurice Hayes, found these patients were effectively 'queueing to queue'. These patients were seeking an outpatient appointment in a clinic with no slot available. They had not yet got on to the waiting list.

Asked what steps had been taken to alleviate this problem, a spokesman for the hospital said all patients -- including those with and without an appointment -- would be entered into an electronic waiting list before the end of this month. This was not the case previously, he said.

However, if no slot was available some patients could not be given an appointment date immediately, the spokesman admitted. They would receive one as the list reduced or a slot became available.

He said that all GP letters seeking an appointment for a patient were now reviewed by consultants to determine which people needed to be seen urgently and they were to be seen within two weeks.

However, people with 'routine' problems still risk having to wait a year for an appointment if all the slots are filled up.

This situation is not unique to Tallaght Hospital where the appointment books of consultants are filled for at least a year.

The report of the Tallaght Hospital Review showed that 2,762 patients who needed to see a range of specialists for skin, heart and eye conditions were "queuing to queue" in the hospital in June.

Complexity

In addition, there were 13,500 patients on waiting lists for an outpatient appointment at the hospital in June. Of these, 1,166 patients were on the waiting list for more than a year.

The report also found that there were not enough radiologists at the hospital to cope with the volume and complexity of X-rays and scans.

This led to nearly 58,000 X-rays and scans not being read by radiologists. There were seven radiologists in the hospital last year and two sanctioned posts.

A spokesman for the hospital said extra locum doctors had been employed since then. The hospital has also been given the go-ahead to recruit two full-time radiologists.

Irish Independent

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