365,000 still waiting to see consultants
THE number of patients on waiting lists for a specialist appointment now stands at 365,000 -- many of them already waiting over a year.
The figures, which have been gathered from all hospitals for the first time, are collated from the massive list of people who need to see a consultant.
Meanwhile, another 415 people who need surgery are facing long delays of over nine months. Of those waiting for surgery for more than nine months, 170 have been on the list for over a year.
The figures which show the still huge scale of the problem facing Health Minister Dr James Reilly were revealed yesterday.
Dr Reilly said earlier this year he wanted to see no patient waiting for surgery for over nine months. However, a number of hospitals continue to struggle to meet the target which the HSE insists will be achieved by the end of the year.
The ongoing drive to cut treatment delays was outlined yesterday in a progress report from the Special Delivery Unit, a nerve centre set up in the Department of Health to oversee hospital efficiencies.
Martin Connor, the unit's adviser, said the new system to gather electronic data on waiting lists will show 365,000 people are listed as needing appointments.
However, it will be early next year before hospitals are given time targets to bring down the numbers of people waiting for a specialist appointment.
Mr Connor insisted the drive to tackle surgical waiting lists was bearing fruit and contrasted the current list with the 5,119 waiting over nine months in January.
Dr Reilly, who set up the unit a year ago, said: "Since assuming office I made it clear that the priority must be given to taking care of those patients waiting the longest.
"Once the most urgent cases are treated, hospitals must devote their capacity to treating the longest waiters in strict chronological order. The fresh statistics are clear evidence of that fact that hospitals can and are doing that."
The numbers of patients on trolleys have also fallen by 23.6pc, or 16,659, since this time last year, although there is evidence that winter pressures are pushing up numbers again.