Government almost 50,000 behind on its own hospital waiting list targets

Shortfall due to higher than anticipated numbers of patients joining waiting lists, Department of Health says

The Government is almost 50,000 patients behind its target for reducing hospital waiting lists this year, new figures show.

A 46,000 shortfall on the target is due to higher than anticipated numbers of patients – 102,000 – joining the waiting lists, according to the Department of Health.

The number of patients waiting for an operation last month increased while the waiting list for appointments fell, the November figures published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) show.

There were 580,055 outpatients on the list last month, down from 588,813 the previous month. The number of inpatients waiting grew, however, from 82,843 to 84,287. The waiting list for gastrointestinal scopes remained unchanged, at 23,279.


A total of 463,921 patients are waiting longer than the 10- or 12-week targets set in the Sláintecare reform plan for the health service. This is 10 per cent less than last February, the department said in a statement on Friday.

“This progress is significant given the challenging backdrop, in common with health services across Europe, of continuing significantly higher additions to waiting lists than projected,” it said.

The department also said there have been “significant reductions” in the number of long-waiting patients (longer than 12 months) compared to the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The increase in patient attendances has been attributed by the HSE to a post-pandemic pent-up demand, among other factors.

“Such pressures have had the expected knock-on impact on scheduled care in many of our hospitals in the first half of this year, which has resulted in some waiting lists temporarily increasing,” the department said.

“However, there are many examples of individual hospitals delivering significant improvements in waiting times, despite such challenges.”

University Hospital Waterford, for example, has reduced the number of patients waiting more than nine months for a colonoscopy from 65 to zero.

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Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times