Hospital procedure waiting times on rise
Waiting times for elective or planned procedures in Irish hospitals have begun to rise again, latest figures from the Health Service Executive show.
The number of adults waiting more than nine months for an elective procedure has more than doubled, while the number of children waiting more than 20 weeks is up almost 50 per cent.
Minister for Health James Reilly had set a target of no adults or children waiting more than nine months or 20 weeks by the end of September.
However, the HSE’s performance report for October shows that not only has the target been missed, but the trend is toward an increase in waiting times for both adults and children once again.
The figures are still greatly improved on the start of the year but the latest reversal in the downward trend is likely to cause concern for the Minister. The HSE has been subject to intensive cost-containment measures in recent months in order to stem massive overspending.
Outpatient waiting numbers
Meanwhile, outpatient waiting numbers grew to a record 388,438 in October, the report shows. Almost 30 per cent of these have been waiting for more than 12 months.
There were 995 adults waiting more than nine months for an elective procedure at the end of October, up from 415 on the previous month. The number of hospitals attaining the nine-month targets dropped from 27 to 15. However, the numbers are still 3,683 down on the start of the year. There were 410 children waiting more than 20 weeks for an elective procedure, up 134 on September. This still represents a drop of 1,302 children from the end of January.
The report says progress during September and October “reveals a trajectory that indicates hospitals are on target to meet the nine-month access target for adults”. No new date for reaching the target is indicated.
Emergency delays worsen
Delays in emergency departments also worsened slightly. Some 67.4 per cent of people attending for emergency treatment so far this year were discharged or admitted within six hours of registering, well short of the 95 per cent target. Under 62 per cent of patients were admitted through the emergency department within nine hours of registration, compared to a 100 per cent target.
The best-performing hospitals for emergency targets were St Luke’s in Kilkenny, Kerry General, Letterkenny, Portiuncula in Ballinasloe and St John’s in Limerick. Some 90 per cent of patients attending the emergency departments of these hospitals were admitted through the department within nine hours of their registration.
In contrast, the nine-hour target was achieved for only 21 per cent of patients in Beaumont Hospital.
One target that was achieved was that of carrying out 75 per cent of common procedures on a daycare basis. The average length of stay in hospital, a key measure of health costs, fell from 8.3 days in 2011 to 7.1 days this year.
The number of beds closed also dropped in October to 815, from 872 the previous month.