The number of people waiting for outpatient appointments in public hospitals has reached another record high, according to latest figures.
While health authorities are claiming progress in some key areas, statistics released on Friday show 516,363 people were awaiting outpatient appointments by the end of last month, up from 515,547 in September, itself a record level.
The number of those on all waiting lists across the public system is now at 717,628, a decrease of less than 500 for the month.
While the Government has vowed to further cut waiting times through increased expenditure in the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) – the body that collates and publishes the monthly data – the state of the health service continues to attract criticism.
Responding to the latest totals, Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly said the number of people waiting on the outpatient list for more than a year is equivalent to about 3 per cent of the population - enough to fill Dublin’s Aviva stadium three times over. He said 151,432 [PEOPLE]have being waiting for an outpatient appointment for more than 12 months, “a truly astonishing figure”.
“It is the equivalent of Limerick city and suburbs combined with Waterford city and suburbs.
“It is truly shocking and it seems to me the only action being taken to address it are validation exercises that take people off the list without seeing a consultant.”
Day care list reduction
Mr Donnelly was also critical of Minister for Health Simon Harris whom he said had still not released details of his outpatient action plan seven months after he announced one would be formulated. He acknowledged, however, that the NTPF had succeeded in reducing inpatient and day case waiting lists.
This was an element of the overall data keenly emphasised by Mr Harris.
“I am pleased to see that the number of patients waiting for an inpatient or day case procedure has fallen again this month, to 72,000, from a peak of 86,100 in July 2017,” he said.
“This represents a 16 per cent reduction in the overall number of patients waiting for an inpatient or day case procedure. In addition there has been a 38 per cent reduction in the number of patients waiting over nine months.”
Improvements in waiting times have been identified for particular specialties. Since July 2017, there has been an 82 per cent reduction in those waiting over nine months for cataract procedures; a 74 per cent reduction for tonsillectomies in the same period; and an 83 per cent reduction for those awaiting angiograms.
Mr Harris said NTPF funding was due to increase by €20 million to €75 million next year.
Updating its inpatient day case access plan, the NTPF said the number of patients awaiting appointments for elective procedures was continuing to fall. There were 717 fewer by the end of October than at the end of September.