Fianna Fail Spokesperson on Primary Care and Community Health Services, John Brassil has said that the first 12 months of the new Government has seen an additional 4,934 children waiting longer than 18 months for their first hospital appointment after being referred by their GP.

Deputy Brassil, a pharmacist by profession, was commenting after his party analysed the recent waiting list figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund.

“How is it possible that the number of children waiting longer than 18 months for a hospital appointment has rocketed by nearly 447% in just one year?

“There should never be a situation where children, or indeed any person, should have to wait 18 months for an appointment, yet we have the scandalous situation at present of having 6,037 of them waiting.

“The total number of children waiting for an appointment increasing by 22% is bad enough, but the number of children waiting inordinate amounts of time to be seen by a hospital doctor seems to have just gone out of control.

“Fianna Fáil forced Fine Gael to concede last year that their moth balling of the National Treatment Purchase Fund in 2012 was a retrograde step. In Budget 2017, additional funding was given to the NTPF to address waiting lists, but it has taken too long to see any impact in terms of reductions in waiting times.

“If a GP feels that a child, or indeed any person, needs to be seen by a hospital consultant, then there is a clinical need, and the health system must be able to respond in a timely manner.

“This isn’t happening, and it’s putting a great deal of stress on families, and community based health professionals.

“Minister Harris has had 12 months in office and it seems to me that the sum total of his impact has been a rocketing in the number of children waiting.

“He needs to do better, and come with real solutions to deal with the severe capacity issues that are crippling our health system.

“Many say that that the true measure of how advanced a society is how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. Fine Gael’s record on children and older people when it comes to accessing health services is disgraceful,” concluded Brassil.