Colonoscopy waiting list for public patients is branded 'shocking'
Almost half of public patients are waiting more than three months for a colonoscopy, according to the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) - which labelled the statistics "shocking".
At the end of March, 5,371 people had been waiting longer than three months for the test.
The HSE target is that 70pc of people waiting for a routine colonoscopy are seen within three months. The ICS says no patients should be waiting longer than this.
Donal Buggy, head of services at the ICS, said: "It's shocking that nearly half of all people waiting for a colonoscopy have been doing so for more than three months.
"The Government has to provide adequate funding for a strategic endoscopy plan, greater investment in workforce planning to deal with growing demand and hospitals must find more capacity to deal with waiting lists in their network.
"If this does not happen, some cancers may be diagnosed late and the extension of BowelScreen to all people aged 55-74 will not happen.
"Efforts have been made by the Department of Health and the HSE to address wait times, including development of GP referral guidelines and the purchase of additional private appointments for long-waiters, but progress to date has been slow."
Dr Orlaith Kelly, consultant gastroenterologist, said: "It can take up to a year for a new consultant or advanced nurse practitioner post to be approved, even with proven clinical need and management support, so it's vitally important that Government plans now for future service demand."
The ICS is highlighting colonoscopy waiting times as part of Bowel Cancer Awareness month in April.
This year it is estimated that up to 2,800 patients will be diagnosed with bowel cancer, and more than 1,000 people will die from it.
The society is encouraging anyone who has been affected by long waiting times for a colonoscopy to call its Cancer Nurseline on freephone 1800 200 700.