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12 month delays for MRI scans 'putting lives at risk'

7,000 people have been waiting for a scan for more than one year.

Image: Shutterstock/Thanapun

ABOUT 27,000 people were waiting for MRI scans at the end of 2014, new figures reveal.

Of this number, more than 7,000 patients (26%) were waiting for more than a year.

By the end of December, some 17,300 patients were waiting for CT scans, with about 600 people (4%) waiting in excess of 12 months.

At the same time, about 1,100 people were waiting for a Bone Scan (isotope), and approximately 1,200 patients were waiting for an Electroencephalogram (EEG scan).

The figures were released by the HSE in response to a parliamentary question asked by Tommy Broughan.

The independent TD said he is concerned by the number of patients waiting for over 12 months for diagnostic tests and procedures in hospitals such as Beaumont, St. Vincent’s, the Mater, and University of Limerick.

Broughan said the “vast numbers of patients on waiting lists for potentially life-saving diagnostic tests is very worrying”.

A spokesperson for the HSE told TheJournal.ie that 77% of patients waiting for routine diagnostic tests such as MRIs and CT scans are waiting less than 12 months, while people requiring a sooner appointment are seen within 9- 12 weeks and ”urgent” patients are seen within seven days.

The HSE said that a “comprehensive review” has been undertaken to establish why patients have to wait more than 12 months to be seen in “a small number of hospitals”.

An action plan to tackle the issue has been drawn up to “to ensure that patients are appropriately prioritised”. This includes establishing referral criteria and setting up groups to enable better use of existing capacity across hospitals.

The spokesperson said that a decision was taken to suspend reporting of waiting times “due to variances in data definitions”. It is planned that all hospitals will report on diagnostic waiting lists from the first quarter of 2015 onwards.

Not addressing the issue?

Broughan welcomed measures taken by the HSE to accurately record and manage data relating to waiting lists, but said the organisation “isn’t really addressing the nub of the problem, which is timely access to test machinery, consultants and diagnosis”.

We all know that early diagnosis should lead to a better prognosis and are being encouraged as citizens to be proactive in self-checks or check-ups through our GP s or national screening programmes but what then?

Broughan said early intervention and prevention is put in danger by “unmanageable waiting lists”, adding that making patients wait over 12 months is “putting lives at risk unnecessarily”.

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Órla Ryan

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