I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, to the House. Before I address my Commencement matter directly, I welcome the announcement from the HSE this morning that women will be able to have their partners present at anomaly scans. I have been one of those women who has received the worst news from one of those scans. It is coming up to the fourth anniversary and there is not a day when I do not think about that little person. It is great that women going through similar experiences, and who will get similar news today and in the future, will not be alone.
I submitted this Commencement matter issue mainly from frustration and impatience. From personal experience over many years, I have wondered if women are being listened to in the Irish healthcare system. In all the history of our public health system, we have not seen waiting lists like this before for gynaecology services. The latest figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, show that there were 4,446 patients on inpatient day case waiting lists for gynaecology procedures at the end of October, and around 1,200 of the patients waiting nationally have been waiting for longer than a year. This number has increased by 200 in 2020, and by more than half in the last five years. The number of people waiting for more than a year to see a consultant almost doubled in 2020 and has increased by more than 1,000 in five years. These waiting lists are causing Irish women, young and old, to be exhausted.
I wish to highlight a specific illness called endometriosis. The lack of care, diagnosis and treatment for this illness is atrocious. Women can wait for up to nine years for a diagnosis, and that is if they persevere and do not give up and think that what they are experiencing is just normal. It is not normal to be in pain at any time of the month and endometriosis does not just cause difficulty during menstruation, it can cause difficulties and pain all month long. I suffer with this illness. I am standing here in absolute agony, as it happens, but many women around the country are in the same position as me and go through their daily lives in pain which is usually untreated.
There is not enough awareness and there is not enough training. I have heard horror stories from women who have been told that they have imagined this and to take painkillers or go for a run. That advice is all very well and good if one is fit to go for a run and not crippled in pain. Such advice is very insulting to say the least and something drastic must be done. Women are being ignored, women's chronic pain is being ignored, and illnesses are not being diagnosed so, therefore, are not treated.
I am very aware of the HSE's national women and infants health programme that seeks to help the majority of patients with endometriosis and other gynaecological problems by improving their access to gynaecological services. However, from the previous figures that I have stated, serious efforts must be made to meet the demand for gynaecological services. We cannot help diagnose patients if there is an outstanding demand for gynaecological services. I look forward to hearing the details and actions, hopefully, from the Minister of State about the Department of Health's plan to increase capacity, reduce waiting times for women awaiting gynaecological appointments, update us on phase 1 of the model of care and a timeline for the opening of new clinics.