Patients waiting over 16 months on average for hospital consultation and operation, study finds

Letterkenny University Hospital has longest average wait times in the State, Irish Patients’ Association says

It takes an average of over 16 months to see a hital consultant and undergo an operation in the public health system, according to a new analysis.

There are huge variations in wait time between different hospitals, leaving patients to endure a “postcode lottery” where access to care is dictated by where they live, according to the Irish Patients’ Association.

Patients at Letterkenny University Hospital have to wait longest for appointments and procedures — an average of 21.2 months.

Patients at the Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar and Cork University Hospital have average waits of more than 19 months, the analysis shows.

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In contrast, the average wait time at Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown and South Infirmary hospital in Cork is just 7.6 months on average. At Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, patients wait an average of 8 months.

The analysis relies on an average weighted time for consultant-led consultation and operations in the public system in July 2022. The association took the midpoint of each time-band figure published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund as the basis for a weighted average calculation, using an estimate of 22 months’ wait-time for patients categorised as waiting more than 18 months.

The analysis shows a small reduction in average wait-time nationally this year, from 17.9 months in January to 16.5 months in July. At this rate of improvement, it would take eight years to reach the target of 12 weeks’ wait time, the association points out.

“We have had enough analysis, descriptions of the problems and false starts, all with little overall progress. Some unfortunate people die, or may have life-changing injuries arising from preventable errors in overcrowded emergency departments. The Government and HSE must start to independently monitor all such deaths and injuries to patients in hospitals,” it adds.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times