Failure to fill health consultant posts contributed to waiting times – doctors group

Irish Hospital Consultants Association point to ‘ongoing failure’ by Government to fill 728 openings

As more patients are initially seen and given follow-up appointments for further treatment, the number of patients on the planned procedure list increases. Photograph: iStock

As more patients are initially seen and given follow-up appointments for further treatment, the number of patients on the planned procedure list increases. Photograph: iStock

 

Doctors have said a failure to fill hundreds of consultant posts across the healthcare system has contributed to almost 1 million people now waiting for appointments and procedures.

Public hospital waiting list data published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) on Friday shows there are now 628,756 patients waiting for a first hospital outpatient consultation.

By the end of March there were also 79,973 awaiting appointments in in-patient or day case treatment and 35,634 for endoscopy.

The data also shows that of 89,917 patients recorded in the planned procedure category, 61,401 have been given indicative dates or actual appointments.

As more patients are initially seen and given follow-up appointments for further treatment, the number of patients on the planned procedure list increases.

The large waiting lists have been seized upon by the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) who pointed to an “ongoing failure” on the part of Government to fill 728 vacant posts.

“Lack of resolution to the consultant recruitment and retention crisis has contributed to some hospitals experiencing a 100 per cent increase in inpatient waiting lists in the last year alone and a total of 881,621 now waiting for care, nationally,” it said on Friday.

The Association’s president Prof Alan Irvine said that while Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has been working to reduce Covid-19 there was also a need to address the “unacceptable delays” in providing care to others reliant on the health service.

The IHCA said in 2021 alone the numbers of people awaiting care in the public system had grown by almost 43,000 but even official statistics are unlikely to show the true picture of required healthcare.

“Our acute hospital figures are at a tipping point,” Prof Irvine said. “Covid restrictions and the vaccine are striving to reduce daily case numbers; meanwhile non-Covid care waiting lists are dangerously increasing.”