Hospital waiting lists worsen significantly despite target date

Leo Varadkar pledged to eliminate treatment wait times of 18 months or more by June

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Hospital waiting lists have worsened dramatically in the two months since Minister for Health Leo Varadkar’s target date for their elimination.

The number of people waiting more than 18 months for inpatient or daycase treatment has soared 7,100 per cent since late June, while long waiters on outpatient lists are up 465 per cent, new figures show.

More than 11,000 patients across the State have now been waiting over 18 months for an outpatient appointment, and more than 1,300 patients are waiting for inpatient or daycase treatment.

Mr Varadkar promised zero patients would be waiting this length of time by mid-year and almost reached this target, but the numbers are trending upwards once again.

The number of outpatients waiting more than 18 months grew from 1,988 at the end of June – the Minister’s target date – to 11,235 at the end of August. This is half the level recorded at the start of the year.

The number of people awaiting inpatient or daycase treatment for over 18 months increased from 19 to 1,368 over the same period.

This is one-third up on the start of the year.

Outsourcing initiative

This allowed Mr Varadkar to claim a 96 per cent-plus success rate in cutting long waiting lists.

However, patients’ names were taken off the list where they had received an appointment, even if they hadn’t yet seen a doctor.

Overall, more than 404,000 patients are on the outpatient waiting list and 68,000 are waiting for inpatient or daycase treatment, the latest monthly figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) show.

The hospitals with the biggest numbers of long waiters include Galway University Hospital, where 2,320 patients are waiting over 18 months, and Tallaght and Cork University hospitals, with 1,000 apiece.

Some 766 patients in the three Dublin children’s hospitals are waiting over 18 months for an outpatient appointment.

Four hospitals recorded no patients waiting this length of time for an outpatient appointment, while 20 hospitals had no adult patients waiting for over 18 months for inpatient or daycase treatment.

No patient waiting

The NTPF figures for the end of August show there is still some way to go before this target is achieved, with 34,000 outpatients waiting more than 15 months for an appointment and almost 5,000 waiting this period for inpatient or daycase treatment.

Two years ago, an effort was made to clear massive outpatient waiting lists by outsourcing work to the private sector.

Many patients ended up being referred back into the public system and back on to the waiting list, but at the end of it.

This led to accusations, denied by the HSE, that the waiting list was being manipulated.

Mr Varadkar has promised the latest outsourcing initiative will effect a longer-lasting reduction in waiting times.