Hospital waiting lists rise again to record levels

Almost 415,000 people waiting for outpatient appointments in May

Some 338 patients were on trolleys or in extra ward beds in emergency departments waiting for admission to hospital on Monday, according to  the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Some 338 patients were on trolleys or in extra ward beds in emergency departments waiting for admission to hospital on Monday, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

Hospital waiting lists have risen again to record levels, according to the latest monthly figures.

Almost 415,000 people were waiting for outpatient appointments and 67,000 for inpatient or day care treatment in May, the figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) show.

However, the rate of increase is slowing and there has been a slight reduction in some categories of long waiters.

The number of people waiting over 12 months for outpatient appointments increased to 85,130, from 83,347 in April, despite Minister for Health Leo Varadkar’s pledge that tackling long waits is a key priority for the Government.

Mr Varadkar told the Dail last month significant progress was being made in reducing long waiting times for hospital treatment. He defines this as any wait longer than 18 months, for which no published figures are available. The NTPF and the Health Service Executive separately publish figures measuring the number of patients waiting over 12 months.

The NTPF figures for May show 73,521 people were waiting for an outpatient appointment for between 12 and 24 months, up over 1,000 on the previous month. The number waiting 24-36 months was also up, while the number waiting 36-48 months, and over 48 months were down slightly.

Tallaght hospital has over 10,000 patients waiting on outpatient waiting lists for over 12 months, and Galway University Hospital has almost 9,000.

The longest outpatient waiting lists are in the specialties of ear, nose and throat; orthopaedics; and general surgery.

For inpatient and day case procedures, 67,359 people were on the waiting list, up almost 200 in a month. The number waiting over 12 months was slightly down, at 9,180. Beaumont and Galway hospitals have the longest waiting lists.

The NTPF says almost 16,000 people are waiting for a gastrointestinal endoscopy, of whom 828 are waiting over 12 months.

Waiting lists have been rising since the end of 2013 but a spike in trolley numbers earlier this year forced the cancellation of thousands of non-urgent procedures and exacerbated the situation.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil a number of limiting factors were affecting efforts to cut lists, notably a shortage of qualified nursing and medical staff. As a result, up to 1,500 inpatient and day case procedures would have to be outsourced. The HSE has tended for private facilities to do this work, which Mr Varadkar said would be completed by the end of this month.

Some 338 patients were on trolleys or in extra ward beds in emergency departments waiting for admission to hospital on Monday, according to the TrolleyWatch count by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.