Over 1,000 patients with neurological conditions are waiting over four years to see a consultant in a public outpatients clinic for a treatment decision on their condition, it has emerged.
The figures were provided to the Neurological Alliance of Ireland (NAI), which has called for urgent Government action to tackle the growing problem of neurological service deficits.
The NAI said in addition to the four-year outpatient wait figures, 5,580 adult and child patients with conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson's, MS and severe migraine are waiting over a year for a consultant appointment.
In addition, the NAI said 989 out of a total of 2,700 patients waiting for neurosurgery are forced to wait more than six months for an operation - with the longest being left untreated for over three years.
irishhealth.com recently revealed that there are nearly 10,000 patients in total in all specialties waiting more than four years for an outpatient appointment. In Croom Orthopaedic Hospital in Limerick, 40% of the 10,000- plus patients on outpatient lists have been waiting over four years.
Commenting on the neurology wait figures, NAI Chairman Chris Macey said they were 'truly shocking'.
"When you combine these waiting lists with the huge deficits that exist in neurorehabilitation services for people living with the effects of car crashes, brain tumours, strokes and a range of other serious conditions, what you are left with is suffering on a monumental scale in every town and parish the length and breadth of Ireland - much of it avoidable."
Urgent action was needed, he said, to prioritise the development of better services, both in hospital and the community for people with neurological conditions.
Consultant neurologist Prof Orla Hardiman said that the long delays for patients are not acceptable either to doctors or the population at large.
She said to a large extent, the solution in reducing waiting lists for neurology lay not in increased funding for services, but through reorganisation of what's already there.
"We don't need more money, we just need to be cleverer about the way we deliver the services people need. There are many barriers and blocks, historical practices and poor organisational structures that reduce the effectiveness of existing services," Dr Hardiman said.
Mr Macey said that neurorehabilitation services in Ireland are recognised to be the worst in Europe. "And even if the improvements being sought were implemented, they would still be worse than those in any other European country with the exception of the UK."
"For example, we currently have seven consultants to serve acute neurorehabilitation needs across the whole country. But even if we had 50 we would still have the lowest number per capita in Europe with the exception of the UK. And if it increased to 150, we would still be behind countries like Estonia, Latvia, Czech Republic, Croatia and Serbia."
Health Minister James reilly has pledged that no-one will be waiting more than 12 months for an outpatient appointment in any specialty buy the end of this year.
Limerick has longest outpatient waits
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