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record high More than 600,000 patients facing a gruelling wait to see a specialist

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Blurred figures of people with medical uniforms in hospital corridor

Blurred figures of people with medical uniforms in hospital corridor

Blurred figures of people with medical uniforms in hospital corridor

The number of public patients facing a gruelling wait to see a specialist has reached another record high of 612,817 – a jump of nearly 800 in the space of a month.

The worrying picture, which could lead to some patients deteriorating or having to endure pain, emerged in new waiting list figures released by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).

It shows the waiting list for gastrointestinal scopes – which can diagnose serious illness – fell to 34,116 in October, from 34,605 in the space of a month.

Better progress is being made in tackling lists for surgery but it is still slow the numbers in the queue are now at 74,860, a fall from 75,902 in September.

Commenting on the lists, president of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association Dr Alan Irvine said: “Month after month, waiting list records are getting worse yet we continue to fail to accept key flaws that are causing the problem.

There is general acceptance that more consultants and more beds to care for patients is the solution.

“While Government has committed record funding levels in its recent Budget, until this money is channelled effectively and speedily to where it will make a difference for patients, we will continue to publish record waiting lists.

“In budgetary terms, for a fraction of the level of spending commitments made we could fix the core problem of vacant permanent consultant posts. The immediate benefits this would have on patient care and waiting lists would also extend to other cost savings.

“Government can no longer ignore the fundamental requirement that the provision of timely hospital care to patients cannot be achieved with an insufficient number of hospital consultants and hundreds of vacant permanent consultant posts.

“No amount of investment in services will reduce waiting lists unless we recruit and retain the necessary number of consultants to deliver timely care.

“In addition to urgently filling the necessary number of consultant posts, additional acute hospital capacity needs to be commissioned and opened at speed to provide essential care to non-Covid-19 patients as well as to Covid-19 patients. This requires expansion of acute and ICU beds, operating theatre and outpatient facilities.”

Dr Irvine said his organisation has sought meetings with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and HSE chief Mr Paul Reid .

He added :“The first and obvious step for Government is to end the salary inequity imposed on consultants taking up contracts since 2012, so that hospitals can fill over 500 vacant permanent posts.”

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