Public hospital waiting lists climb above 550,000

Plight of patients hits new low with latest record indicating troubling trend for Minister

Over 96,000 patients are waiting in excess of 12 months for an outpatient appointment. File photograph: Getty Images

Over 96,000 patients are waiting in excess of 12 months for an outpatient appointment. File photograph: Getty Images

 

All major public hospital waiting lists rose yet again last month, to set a new record of 556,000 patients waiting for an appointment or treatment.

The number of patients enduring long waits for inpatient or outpatient appointments also grew, according to the latest monthly figures. More than 96,000 patients are waiting in excess of 12 months for an outpatient appointment and 16,300 are waiting this length of time for inpatient or day-case services.

The overall increase of more than 11,000 on the public lists is the ripple effect of the post-Christmas trolley crisis which forced the cancellation of thousands of scheduled appointments.

The Government plans to spend €50 million this year on initiatives to cut waiting lists, but the latest figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) show this work has yet to have any significant impact.

Seriously ill

A further 88,000 patients are on two unpublished lists collated by the NTPF, bringing the total on all lists to 644,000. There were 26,681 on the “pre-admit” list (these have treatment scheduled within six weeks) and 61,139 on the “planned procedures list”; many of these have return appointments for endoscopy checks and are not regarded by the HSE as waiting.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has been under intense pressure since an RTÉ documentary last month highlighted the plight of seriously ill patients languishing long periods on lists.

There is no succour for the Minister in the February figures, which show that 454,487 patients are on the outpatient list, up almost 9,000 on January. More than 63,000 of these have been waiting in excess of 15 months to see a doctor.

There are 83,803 people on the inpatient list, up almost 2,000 in a month. More than 16,000 are waiting at least a year and 9,500 beyond 15 months.

The NTPF also records 17,441 people waiting for a gastro-intestinal test, up slightly on the previous month.

University Hospital Galway alone has more than 35,000 patients waiting for an outpatient appointment, and 11,600 for inpatient treatment.

Despite the end of winter and the flu season, the trolley crisis remains grave. There were 501 patients waiting for admission to hospital on trolleys or in wards on Wednesday morning, according to the daily count by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.