Numbers on outpatient hospital waiting list hit new high of 515,500
Total on all waiting lists remains at 718,000 as inpatient waiting list falls for 14th month
The National Treatment Purchase Fund was allocated €75m in this week’s budget for initiatives to cut waiting lists next year. Photograph: Getty
The number of people waiting for an outpatient hospital appointment with a doctor has risen to a new record of 515,547.
The total number of patients on all public hospital waiting lists was 718,101 last month, virtually unchanged from August’s total of 718,165.
Some inroads have been made into cutting inpatient and day case lists, with 72,718 patients waiting for a procedure last month, according to the latest figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).
This represents a fall of 1,471 since August and a cumulative decrease of 13,393 since numbers peaked in July 2017.
The NTPF says it will arrange inpatient/day case treatments for 20,000 patients this year, including cataract operations, angiograms, treatment for skin lesions, hip and knee replacements, varicose vein treatments, tonsillectomies and cystoscopies.
Two out of every three procedures is carried out in a private hospital and the average cost to the NTPF is about €2,300 per procedure.
By the end of this year, all patients waiting for more than nine months for these procedures will have received an offer of treatment, the NTPF says.
Some 12,580 patients waiting for these procedures have accepted an offer of treatment so far this year.
The aim is to get another 45,000 patients off the inpatient list so no-one is waiting longer than three months. At current rates, this will take three years to achieve.
Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly said the fall in inpatient lists was clear evidence that the reactivation of the NTPF, secured by his party under the confidence and supply arrangement with the Government, was working.
The NTPF was allocated €75 million in this week’s budget for initiatives to cut waiting lists and plans to extend its focus from inpatient lists to also tackle the outpatient waiting list.
“There are 16,528 people are waiting over a year for an ophthalmology appointment - their sight could deteriorate significantly if they don’t get a timely consultation,” Mr Donnelly pointed out.
Chief executive Liam Sloyan said the number of patients on the waiting list for elective surgery has been steadily falling for the past 14 months.
“We have made a particular impact in reducing the numbers of patients waiting for the highest volume procedures and reducing the number of people waiting more than nine months for their procedure, achieving a 32 per cent decrease since July 2017.
“Real progress has been made for public patients and the NTPF will use its increased €75 million 2019 budget efficiently and effectively to build on this work next year.”
The latest figures show that while the CervicalCheck controversy has dominated the debate about health this year, the rise in overall waiting list numbers has continued.
The trend is likely to place renewed pressure on the health service during the difficult winter period, with many health professionals predicting that demand for beds will outstrip supply in the coming months as much as it did last winter.
The NTPF records the number of patients waiting on nine lists, which includes those waiting for gastro-intestinal procedures and those whose treatment has been suspended.
Some of these lists grow as hospitals carry out more activity and patients are scheduled for follow-up treatment.
The NTPF does not count patients waiting for diagnostic procedures such as x-rays or MRIs, or those waiting for speech and language therapy, psychology, dietetics and other professional health services.