Outpatient waiting lists rise for fourth month in a row

Department imposes €8.7m fines on hospitals for breaching 18-month targets

 

The number of outpatients waiting over 18 months for an appointment has increased for the fourth month in a row, despite Minister for Health Leo Varadkar’s promise to abolish long waits.

Mr Varadkar said the trend on waiting lists was “broadly positive” with improvements in the overall numbers on the outpatient waiting list and the number of long waiter for inpatient procedures.

There were 13,353 people on the outpatient waiting list for over 18 months at the end of October, up 177 on the previous month, according to the latest monthly figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).

Mr Varadkar had said no-one would wait longer than 18 months from the end of June this year.

In a statement issued two hours before the official figures were published, the Department expressed disappointment at the further increase in the number waiting over 18 months as well as the slow rate of decrease of long waiting inpatient and daycase patients.

Fines totalling € 8.47 million have been levied on hospitals who have failed to meet the waiting list targets, it said.

“The application of fines is also aimed at incentivising improved performance in relation to the longest waiters.”

The department said reductions in inpatient and daycase numbers waiting over 18 months, and over 15 months, were “very positive” as this was the first time reductions were seen in these categories.

There were 2,161 people waiting over 18 months for daycase or inpatient treatment in October, down 83, according to the NTPF.

The total number of people on the outpatient waiting list has fallen below 400,000 for the first time this year, the statement also noted.

There were 396,571 people on the list last month, down almost 5,000 in a month.

The department says this has been achieved by hospitals facilitated additional clinics outside conventional working hours and by outsourcing where capacity is limited.

Responding to a rise in the number of patients waiting for gastrointestinal endoscopies, it saidthe HSE believe standardised referral criteria must be strictly applied as well as capacity reviewed.

“In respect of urgent colonoscopies, there is a four-week access target and a policy of zero tolerance applies to any breaches.”

Fianna Fáil health minister Billy Kelleher accused the Minister of “risble spin” on waiting lists. Targets had been missed and, in the case of outpatients, were even further off target since Mr Varadkar set last June’s deadline.

“Minister Varadkar may think that figures ‘continue to show improvements’ but no-one will be fooled.”