Hospital waiting lists for outpatient appointments reach new high
Since the start of 2019 an additional 48,660 have joined the waiting list
There are also currently 46,949 children across Ireland waiting to see a paediatrician for an outpatient appointment in the three Dublin hospitals that make up Children’s Health Ireland
Hospital waiting lists have reached a new record high, with almost 50,000 additional people waiting for an outpatient appointment since the start of the year.
A record 564,829 people were awaiting a hospital outpatient appointment at the end of July, an increase of 4,578 when compared with June, according to data from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).
An outpatient department treats people with health problems who visit the hospital for diagnosis or treatment, but do not require a bed or to be admitted for overnight care.
Numbers have increased 10.4 per cent year-on-year, with 511,675 patients on the list this time last year. Since the start of 2019 an additional 48,667 have joined the waiting list, figures show.
The Mater Misericordiae University Hospital had the highest number of people awaiting an appointment with 44,782, followed by Galway University Hospital, which had 42,683.
There are also currently 46,949 children across Ireland waiting to see a paediatrician for an outpatient appointment in the three Dublin hospitals that make up Children’s Health Ireland.
The number of patients waiting for inpatient or day cases fell slightly month-on-month, with 68,807 people waiting in July, compared with 69,971 people waiting in June.
However, some 10,633 people on the inpatient list have been waiting for more than a year, and of those almost half have been waiting for more than 18 months.
The NTPF figures also show how waiting lists vary dramatically by hospitals. More than 20 per cent of all patients who have been waiting for more than 18 months for an inpatient appointment were in Galway University Hospital, while 15 hospitals had no patients waiting that length for an appointment.
Waiting lists also varied depending on speciality, with 9,901 patients on the waiting list for orthopaedic surgery.
Dr Donal O’Hanlon, president of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA), said it was not surprising the outpatient waiting lists were greatest in those specialities with the greatest shortage of consultants or where vacant posts were more prevalent.
He said waiting list numbers would not improve without the required number of hospital consultants.
“The numbers waiting to see a hospital consultant continue to grow by an average of almost 7,000 new patients each month since the start of this year. Looking at what has happened over the past five years the numbers are even more stark, where numbers of patients waiting have grown by almost 180,000 over that time.”
He added: “The consultant recruitment and retention crisis, with one in five permanent consultant posts now unfilled, is a key factor in the long wait times patients face. We need to end this crisis. To do so Minister for Health Simon Harris must honour his commitment to begin talks with consultant representative bodies in September.”
The IHCA is currently running a campaign called CareCantWait, which seeks to raise awareness about staffing shortages in hospital departments around the country.