7,500 children waiting to see hospital specialist

By Mary Dennehy

NEARLY 7,500 children are waiting to see a specialist at the National Children’s Hospital Tallaght, with over 2,800 of these young patients waiting longer than a year.

Figures were released by the Department of Health in response to a parliamentary question by Sinn Féin, which sought information on the number of children waiting nationally to see a specialist in the country’s hospitals.

Tallaght Hospital 03 compressor

Tallaght University Hospital

According to the figures, 86,825 children and young people are waiting to see a specialist in hospitals nationwide, with over 46,000 children on waiting lists in Dublin – Temple Street, Our Lady’s Crumlin and the National Children’s Hospital (NCH) Tallaght.

Some 7,497 children are waiting to see a specialist across 13 out-patient departments at the National Children’s Hospital Tallaght.

All 13 paediatric specialities at NCH Tallaght have waiting lists, the longest being Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT) 2,708, Paediatrics Development 820, Dermatology 800, General Paediatrics 783, Ophthalmology 500 and Immunology 431.

Gastro-enterology has 362 children and young people awaiting an appointment, while paediatric respiratory medicine has 317.

In relation to children waiting longer than 12 months, combined figures for all 13 departments show that 562 children are waiting between 12 and 15 months, while 563 are waiting 15 to 18 months.

Figures also report that 1,695 children are waiting longer than 18 months, 997 of whom are waiting to see an Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT) specialist.

"Huge problems" regarding ENT

Sean Crowe, Dublin South West TD (Sinn Féin), said: “The release of this information justifies the questioning of many parents, campaigners, and politicians who questioned the official figures and said there were many ‘hidden children’ awaiting to see a specialist but were being counted on adult hospital waiting lists.

“In particular, there are huge problems regarding waiting lists for the Ear, Nose and throat speciality.

“[Some] 997 children are waiting over 18 months to see a paediatric ENT specialist [at Tallaght].”

Children’s Health Ireland (CHI), which was established to take over responsibility for services currently provided by Dublin’s three children’s hospitals and to run the new children’s hospital when built, responded to queries by The Echo.

"Recruitment of additional consultants" - CHI 

A spokesperson for CHI said: “Children’s Health Ireland regrets any long wait a patient and their family has for an outpatient appointment.

“While the majority of children and young people are seen within a 12-month period, we recognise that too many are waiting too long for their appointments and we are making every effort to reducing these waiting times.

“CHI have secured NTPF [National Treatment Purchase Fund] funding for initiatives in 2019 to address access to patients for specialities, such as, ENT.

“Recruitment of additional consultants for CHI specialties with the longest OPD waiting times (Allergy, Dermatology, Radiology, Gastroenterology, Rheumatology, Orthopaedics and ENT) is also underway following CHI securing additional NTPF funding 2019.”

The spokesperson added that clinical validation through virtual clinics has commenced across CHI and has had a “significant impact” on reducing waiting lists – with a focus on patients waiting the longest.

Virtual clinics support the assessment, monitoring and management of outpatient care rather than traditional face-to-face clinical consultation.

“The CHI has also appointed a Scheduled Care Lead to help improve access to services,” the spokesperson said.

“We are validating all our OPD [Out Patient Department] waiting lists to ensure that lists are accurate and up to date and that no child is unnecessarily waiting on a list.

“We would ask that families contact us if they cannot make their appointment or if they no longer need it, so that we can offer the time to another child.”

The spokesperson added: “The new children’s hospital will, in time, expand the physical capacity needed to increase activity and reduce waiting times in all paediatric services to help tackle current and future challenges in child health.”

*The figures provided through the PQ are as of the end of August 2019

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