There are excessive and unsafe waiting times for some referrals to hospital outpatient services, according to a damning new report.
The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) report says the management of patient referrals is poor, waiting times for some services can be up to four or five years and there are serious safety concerns.
In 'Patient referrals from General Practice to Outpatient and Radiology Services', HIQA says waiting lists are incomplete and inaccurate and not up-to-date.
The review says that patients should not wait more than 90 days to be seen for an outpatient referral, but that only a small number of hospitals reach this target.
And it adds that there is a lack of accurate, complete and comparable information about patient referrals.
There are issues too for both GPs and patients in contacting hospitals with queries relating to individual referrals.
HIQA says Ireland is far short of best international practice in handling patient referrals.
The situation could be dramatically improved with changes to procedures and practices, which would not cost too much.
The report makes 26 recommendations and says that the HSE should have a clear patient referral system for outpatient and diagnostic radiological services and that referrals should be properly tracked.