Hospital waiting list numbers climb to more than 500,000

Simon Harris criticised as number of people awaiting public treatment reaches new high

More than 10 per cent of the population  sits on the outpatient waiting list.   Photograph: Frank Miller

More than 10 per cent of the population sits on the outpatient waiting list. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

The number of outpatients awaiting hospital consultations reached a new high last month of 502,482.

It was only the second set of monthly figures released by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) to surpass the half million mark and is up from some 386,000 in December 2014, the earliest available figure.

The NTPF is responsible for gathering data on people waiting for public hospital treatment.

With the monthly figures continuing to rise, Minister for Health Simon Harris has been criticised for presiding over a health service in an “extraordinary and unacceptable” condition.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher pointed out that more than 10 per cent of the population now sits on the outpatient waiting list.

“But even more shocking is that 140,393 have been waiting for more than a year and 73,392 of them more than 18 months,” he said. “Reducing the appalling waiting times that outpatients are enduring must be a priority in 2018. We need to see real delivery fast.”

Steady rise

Outpatient waiting numbers breached the half million mark last December, after climbing steadily from about 400,000 in March 2016.

There were 80,204 people awaiting inpatient day procedures, down from 81,468 the previous month but more than 10,000 above the figure recorded in January 2016.

Of the existing inpatient cases, almost 14,000 people have been waiting for an appointment for more than a year. In Dublin’s three main children’s hospitals, 490 patients have been awaiting procedures for longer than 18 months.

There were 11,849 people on the “planned procedure” waiting list, a reference to those who had already attended hospital but who required some form of follow-up treatment.

Meanwhile, the Irish Nurses’ and Midwives’ Organisation reported that 623 hospital patients were awaiting beds on trolleys in both emergency departments and wards on Wednesday. In January, the number of people waiting on beds reached a record high of 677. The largest numbers were waiting at Cork University Hospital (58) followed by University Hospital Limerick (55) and Letterkenny General Hospital (43).