Overall figure for public health waiting lists reaches more than 910,000

Data shows there were 567,393 on the public outpatient list for the month of September

While the outpatient numbers remain well above the half million mark, the  data shows a significant decline from the beginning of the year. Photograph: iStock

While the outpatient numbers remain well above the half million mark, the data shows a significant decline from the beginning of the year. Photograph: iStock

 

The amount of people awaiting outpatient appointments in public hospitals during September rose slightly and the waiting list remains stubbornly above the half million mark.

Overall waiting lists have now reached 910,000 as the Government prepares a strategy to head off the crisis, including engagement with private hospitals.

Data released on Friday shows there were 567,393 on the public outpatient list for the month, up slightly from 566,394 in August, and almost on par with the figure for July.

However, the numbers of those left on the outpatient list for over a year declined by more than 5,000.

Updated monthly data on the public health system is released by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). While normally offering a seamless insight into waiting times month-on-month, the data was skewed in June and July following the HSE cyber attack.

The children’s monthly waiting list has also grown slightly in the latest data from 85,950 to 86,131.

The numbers on the inpatient day case waiting list dropped from 68,102 in August to 67,713 last month.

While the outpatient numbers remain well above the half million mark, the NTPF data shows a significant decline from the beginning of the year. In January there were almost 623,000 people awaiting an initial consultant appointment.

‘Extremely distressing’

Sinn Féin was quick to criticise the performance, pointing to overall waiting lists for all patient types now reaching 910,000, with 206,000 waiting 18 months or more.

Party health spokesman David Cullinane warned that hospitals are facing into a winter crisis with under-pressure emergency departments and wards.

“This is extremely distressing for families whose loved ones cannot access a diagnosis or cannot access treatment, and cannot therefore move on with their lives,” he said.

The Department of Health did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

On Friday morning, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), in its daily trolley watch bulletin, reported 387 admitted patients left waiting for beds. Of those, 308 were waiting in emergency departments and 79 in wards.

Last week it emerged that Cabinet had been warned of a further potential half million people being added to waiting lists before the end of the year. The Government is considering an emergency plan to deal with the situation.

The HSE has also been in talks with private hospitals to provide cover as the list surpasses 900,000.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid conceded that “nobody’s proud” of the record numbers awaiting medical help.