Hospital waiting lists reach new high of 538,000

Record high comes despite reduction in long waiting times for inpatient procedures

Minister for Health Simon Harris: “There is no doubt that the number of people on waiting lists is too high but the really critical thing is how long people are waiting.” Photograph:  Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Health Simon Harris: “There is no doubt that the number of people on waiting lists is too high but the really critical thing is how long people are waiting.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The number of patients on public hospital waiting lists has climbed to a new high of 538,000, despite a reduction in long waiting times for inpatient procedures.

A total of 538,309 patients were on waiting lists at the end of November, as both outpatient and inpatient lists surged by up to 2,000, according to the latest monthly figures.

Minister for Health Simon Harris took succour from news that those waiting longest for inpatient procedure are being dealt with more quickly. The number of these patients waiting more than 18 months fell by almost 1,000, the second successive monthly drop, he pointed out.

Waiting lists for gastro-intestinal tests are also down substantially, he said, with a reduction of more than 5,000 in the endoscopy list in recent months. Earlier this year, he allocated €1 million in funding to ease the pressure on this list.

“There is no doubt that the number of people on waiting lists is too high but the really critical thing is how long people are waiting. I am determined that those who are waiting the longest are put first.”

Outpatients

Overall outpatient and inpatient lists grew faster last month, nonetheless, with 440,629 patients waiting for an outpatient appointment and 81,103 on the inpatient list, according to the figures from the National Purchase Treatment Fund.

A record 85,000 of these outpatients have been waiting for an appointment for over a year, up a massive 4,000 in a month. More than 51,000 have been waiting longer than the 15-month supposed “maximum” waiting time set by the Government; this figure grew by 2,500 in a month.

The Health Service Executive said most of the growth in outpatient lists was explained by a significant increase in referrals, up 10 per cent on last year. It said targeted plans were being developed in the first place in orthopaedics, urology, general surgery and ENT, to deal with the issue.

According to the HSE, more than 8,000 patients have come off the waiting list since August, “either through treatment provision, clinical validation, or being given a date for their procedure to take place”.

The issue of patients failing to attend for appointments is also being addressed, it said. Some 416,000 patients failed to attend for an outpatient appointment last year.

Mr Harris said detailed work was under way in his department on expanded measures to cut lists in 2017, with the aim that no patient is waiting for more than 18 months for day-case treatment by next June.

The hospitals with the longest waiting lists include University Hospital Galway, at 34,000, the Mater and Beaumont hospitals in Dublin at 27,000, and Cork University Hospital, where 26,000 patients are on the list.