Cancer test waiting list 'up 1,000'
The number of patients waiting for a potentially life-saving colonoscopy has jumped by more than 1,000 in a year.
The Irish Cancer Society (ICS) said 1,854 people were waiting more than three months for the procedure in March, compared with 848 for the same period in 2010.
The charity warned the backlog must be reduced before a nationwide screening programme for bowel cancer is introduced next year.
ICS head of advocacy and communications Kathleen O'Meara said services could buckle if more demands are placed on them before waiting lists are tackled.
"There is no reason that people should be waiting more than three months for a colonoscopy and this has to be dealt with urgently in advance of bowel cancer screening," Ms O'Meara said.
"We are very concerned of the impact that these high waiting times will have on a screening programme. We believe that unless the problem of waiting lists is tackled in advance of screening that we cannot have full confidence in the ability of our hospital system to deliver screening while not impacting symptomatic services at the same time."
A colonoscopy is one of the most effective ways of detecting bowel cancer.
Dublin's Beaumont Hospital had the longest waiting list at 444, followed by Tallaght Hospital at 219 and the Mid-Western in Dooradoyle, Limerick, at 180, according to the figures supplied to the Irish Cancer Society from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).
The NTPF said no public patient should be waiting longer than three months for colonoscopy, and added: "The NTPF has the funding and the resources to ensure that any patient waiting more than three months can be provided with a colonoscopy as a matter of priority."
The colorectal (bowel) cancer screening programme is a free service due to begin next January on a phased basis for men and women aged between 60 and 69.