Cutting waiting lists a ‘challenge’

The waiting area in the Outpatients Department, at the Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street, Dublin: 716 children were waiting more than 20 weeks for day-case or inpatient procedures. Photogrpah:  Dara Mac Dónaill

The waiting area in the Outpatients Department, at the Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street, Dublin: 716 children were waiting more than 20 weeks for day-case or inpatient procedures. Photogrpah: Dara Mac Dónaill

Tue, Aug 13, 2013, 01:00


Cutting outpatient waiting lists and holding on to the gains made in reducing trolley numbers in hospitals will be “extremely challenging” this year, Cabinet Ministers have been told.

Almost 200,000 outpatients will have to be seen this year to ensure the new 12-month target for maximum wait time is met, according to a briefing note prepared for the Cabinet Committee on Health. In May, some 377,000 people were on the outpatient waiting list, of whom 100,000 were waiting more than 12 months.

The specialties most at risk of not making the target are orthopaedics, ear, nose and throat, and ophthalmology, according to the document, which was obtained under Freedom of Information legislation.

Significant progress

However, significant progress has been made in cutting inpatient and day-case waiting lists. By the end of last year, just 86 adults were waiting more than nine months, a 98 per cent drop on the previous year. However, the document warns that maintaining this progress will be extremely challenging and points out that there was a “bounceback” of lists at the start of this year.

“The early months of the year brought severe pressures on emergency departments which impact on waiting times – the extended winter seasonal pressures, older-age-profile sicker patients, etc are all having a knock-on effect on scheduled care.”

By May, the numbers waiting more than nine months for day-case or inpatient procedures had risen to 3,725, while 716 children were waiting more than 20 weeks, up from 89 at the start of the year.

This year has also been extremely challenging for trolley waits, the document says, with pressures in hospital emergency departments. Despite this, the number of patients on trolleys was still 7.6 per cent lower than in 2012.