The Irish Hospital Consultants Association has said that almost 250,000 people are waiting for an outpatient appointment in Dublin hospitals as it called for efforts to recruit consultants to be stepped up.

IHCA Vice President Dr Gabrielle Colleran said that the major Dublin hospitals have seen up to a 92% increase in waiting lists since 2015.

These include St James's Hospital (90%), the Mater Hospital (92%) and St Vincent's Hospital (73%).

She told the Today with Claire Byrne programme that the concept of having "someone on a waiting list to join a waiting list" is unacceptable.

Dr Colleran said that there has been a 150-fold increase in the number of people waiting longer than 12 months for care since 2015.

She said these figures are "stark" and that the ultimate concern is the impact of delays on patients, on their prognosis and the anxiety and worry caused to them.

Dr Colleran said that the lack of available beds in hospitals as a result of Covid-19 infections is a "very worrying situation" that is affecting the ability to provide scheduled care and unscheduled emergency care.

There are 910,000 people on waiting lists nationally.

An IHCA analysis of the midwest showed that there are 69,000 people waiting for hospital appointments in Limerick, Clare and north Tipperary.

Dr Colleran said that Temple's Street Children's Hospital has seen a 66% increase in patients with eating disorders in 2020 compared to 2019.

HSE Sláintecare memo

Dr Colleran also called for the HSE to withdraw what she termed a "toxic" memo issued to intending applicants. She said it "damages recruitment and retention at the time we desperately need to recruit people to treat 900,000 people and growing who are on waiting lists".

She said the memo advised those intending to apply for consultant posts that applications would be revoked unless they agreed to sign up to the yet-to-be-agreed Sláintecare contract.

Dr Colleran said that the tone of the memo is "completely at odds with our joint goal of recruiting excellent people into our health service".

She said the memo had a "huge impact" and told applicants that "this is an employer that does not want me and actually despises me".

Dr Colleran said that Ireland continues to have the lowest consultant numbers in Europe with 727 vacant posts needing to be filled.

"We get one or no applicants, and need to address the causes of us failing to recruit and stop losing excellent people," she said.

The HSE said it acknowledged that the memo issued to management "has led to some confusion".

"No applicant for a consultant post will be asked to commit to a contract they haven't seen," it said in a statement.

"Our objective is to ensure consultant recruitment continues while the discussions on the new Sláintecare contract are ongoing," it added.