'Big Brother' plan to keep eye on doctors
Hospital consultants will be subjected to Big Brother-style surveillance to find out if they are treating patients who have been on waiting lists the longest.
The Department of Health's Special Delivery Unit will monitor consultants' waiting lists in a bid to ensure that those who are "next in the queue" are looked after first.
Health Minister James Reilly said people are entitled to know they will be treated in turn, as long as they are not an urgent case or a cancer patient.
"We should not have people waiting four years or more for appointments," said Dr Reilly. "I want to clean that up and have people waiting no more than 12 months to see their consultant by the end of this year."
Asked about the 2,000pc increase in the number of people on in-patient waiting lists since the beginning of the year, the minister said this was anticipated because of seasonal respiratory infections and the winter vomiting bug.
The number of patients on trolleys reached nearly 400 yesterday, with St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin struggling to look after 46 in its emergency department.
Asked how consultants will respond to closer monitoring of waiting lists, Dr Trevor Duffy of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said: "I think the idea has a lot of merit, but the one thing we need to watch is that we are using this chronological order in a system where capacity is outstripped by demand."
Bill Maher, the chief executive of University College Hospital in Galway, which oversees the country's first hospital group, said it planned to clear its out-patient list by the end of the year.
He said a validation exercise found huge inaccuracies in the original list, and 42pc of patients were on it either more than once, had been referred to other hospitals or had already been seen.
The waiting time for patients needing in-patient treatment would be reduced to eight months, he said, but added that some procedures had been on hold since the beginning of the year to accommodate patients from the emergency department.
"We separate the waiting lists into urgent, soon and routine," he said. "Then the patients classed as routine are seen in order."