Patients being ‘let down’ as hospital waiting list numbers remain over 600,000 mark

National Treatment Purchase Fund data shows almost 200,000 have been waiting for outpatient appointments for over a year

The number of people awaiting a first outpatient appointment in public hospitals has remained over the 600,000 mark for two years now, increasing further in the past month, new figures show.

Data published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) on Friday show there were 627,856 people on the public waiting list in July, including nearly 87,000 children.

The number, an increase of almost 4,000 on June, has drawn further criticism from hospital consultants, who say patients are being let down by the system.

The NTPF is a corporate body established to manage hospital treatment and maintain public data on waiting lists. It has continued to report on ever-expanding lists. The number waiting for an initial outpatient appointment first rose above the 600,000 threshold in July 2020 and has failed to come below it since.


July’s lists show that almost one third (196,677) have been waiting for outpatient appointments for longer than a year. More than 27,000 children have been waiting for a similar length of time.

Separately, 79,588 people remain on the list awaiting inpatient or day treatments across the public health system.

“Irish patients are not getting the hospital treatment that they need,” Prof Alan Irvine, president of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association, said on Friday, in what has become a routine monthly rebuke of failures in the system.

“Many thousands are being added to an ever-increasing waiting list for assessment and treatment, which is leading to poorer outcomes.”

The IHCA uses the monthly lists as an opportunity to press for further consultant recruitment in hospitals, citing “years of underinvestment” in capacity.

It says there are now 907,000 people on some form of NTPF waiting list, up almost 75,000 (or 9 per cent) since July 2020, and notes the “waiting list crisis” has long predated the Covid-19 pandemic and the related stresses it brought to public healthcare.

“Thousands of people on Irish hospital waiting lists risk dying while waiting for essential assessment and treatment,” it said.

July’s data also shows that 27,100 patients were waiting to receive an appointment for endoscopy.

“Behind every statistic is a person and a family seeking healthcare, often while experiencing pain, suffering and the psychological distress at not knowing when they will be able to receive treatment,” Prof Irvine said. “Sadly, this can also be a matter of life and death.”

Last month it emerged that of the children awaiting assessment or treatment in the public system, more than 30,000 had been waiting for more than a year.

Commenting at the time, Prof Stephanie Ryan, a retired consultant paediatric radiologist at Temple Street Hospital, said many of the problems present in the health service 25 years ago are the same “or worse” in 2022.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times