Drop in bowel cancer test waits

The Department of Health has reported a major reduction in the number of people waiting for a colonoscopy test, which is often used to check for bowel cancer.

The numbers waiting over three months for a ‘non-urgent’ colonoscopy dropped by 65% between the end of June and the end of August, latest figures show.

There were 849 on three month-plus waiting lists for colonoscopies at the end of August, compared to 2,443 two months beforehand, the Department told irishhealth.com

Of those waiting over three months for a colonoscopy, the numbers waiting between three and six months have fallen by 63%, to 668, those waiting six to nine months have fallen by 79% to 110, while the numbers waiting 9-12 months have dropped by 47% to 56.

The number waiting over a year for a colonoscopy increased from one to 15 between June and August.

However, according to the Department, this figure is statistically small and should not be ‘over-interpreted’ as, for example, non-urgent patients often express a preference for waiting until a particular consultant is available rather than availing of a shorter appointment wait with another.

The Department said the colonoscopy wait figures also showed a downward trend so far this month, and overall, the health service was on target to ensure that no patient should have to wait more than three months for a non-urgent colonoscopy by the end of the year.

Health Minister James Reilly’s Special Delivery Unit (SDU) earlier this year launched an initiative to cut colonoscopy waits, after they had reached record levels.

The Department says patients requiring an urgent colonoscopy are usually nearly all tested within a month.

The numbers waiting between one and three months for a colonoscopy dropped from 4,380 to 3,811 between June and August.

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