Consultant waiting lists hit new record at 556,000
The number of public patients on waiting lists for a first-time appointment with a hospital consultant has spiralled to a new record of 556,411.
The shocking figures show 106,145 of these patients have been in the queue for more than 18 months.
It means there has been a jump of 40,000 more patients on the outpatient list since the end of last year.
Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly branded the queues a "scandal" and a "disgrace".
He warned: "The real concern as ever is for the long waiters, with an even bigger percentage increase (18pc) in the numbers waiting over 18 months. Some 106,145 have been waiting since at least November 2017."
Figures for May show some improvement in waiting lists for public patients needing surgery. The surgical waiting list now stands at 68,765 compared to 70,204 in December.
Another 22,113 are waiting for a gastrointestinal scope procedure, up from 18,847 at the end of last year.
Health Minister Simon Harris said the Government had further increased investment in tackling waiting lists, with funding to the National Treatment Purchase Fund increasing from €55m in 2018 to €75m in 2019.
He said a key element of the plan is the stabilisation of the outpatient waiting list.
Under the plan, the HSE aims to deliver 3.3 million outpatient appointments, of which approximately a million will be first appointments.
The plan also includes a target that the number of patients waiting for a first outpatient appointment will fall from more than 516,000 at the end of 2018 to less than 509,000 by the end of 2019.
This target takes into account more than 800,000 new patients who will be added to the outpatient waiting list in 2019, a figure that is based on trends for the previous two years, he added.
Mr Donnelly said despite the improvement in figures for surgery, some 10,424 are still facing delays of over a year.