Record 569,498 people waiting for hospital outpatient appointments

Waiting lists up 53,000 since start of 2019, NTPF figures reveal

A record 569,498 people were awaiting a hospital outpatient appointment at the end of August, an increase of 4,669 when compared with July, according to data from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). Image: iStock

A record 569,498 people were awaiting a hospital outpatient appointment at the end of August, an increase of 4,669 when compared with July, according to data from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). Image: iStock

 

Hospital waiting lists have continued their upward trend, with more than 53,000 additional people waiting for an outpatient appointment since the start of the year.

A record 569,498 people were awaiting a hospital outpatient appointment at the end of August, an increase of 4,669 when compared with July, according to data from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).

An outpatient department treats people with health problems who visit the hospital for diagnosis or treatment, but do not require a bed or to be admitted for overnight care.

Under a Government plan published last March, the number of patients on the outpatient waiting list is supposed to fall to 509,000 by the end of the year.

The number of patients waiting for inpatient or day cases fell slightly month-on-month, with 68,390 people waiting in August, compared with 68,807 people waiting a month earlier.

The inpatient list is down about 2,000 since the start of the year, but the Government’s target of reducing it to 60,000 by December seems unlikely to be met.

The outpatient list has risen every month this year, Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly pointed out. “The outpatient waiting list is now up by more than 10 per cent this year, so Minister for Health Simon Harris has failed in his very unambitious goal for 2019 of ‘stabilising’ it.”

The outpatient list has risen every month this year, Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly pointed out. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times
The outpatient list has risen every month this year, Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly pointed out. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said the lengthening lists were leading to a deterioration in patients’ health outcomes and increased health costs. Waiting lists were longest where specialties had the greatest shortage of consultants or where vacant posts were more prevalent,

Almost 107,000 patients have been waiting for an outpatient appointment for more than 18 months, a 715 per cent increase since Mr Harris took office in 2016, Mr Donnelly said.

Since the start of 2019 an additional 53,336 have joined the waiting list, figures show.

The Mater Misericordiae University Hospital had the highest number of people awaiting an appointment with 45,129, followed by Galway University Hospital, which had 43,620.

There are also currently 46,551 children across Ireland waiting to see a paediatrician for an outpatient appointment in the three Dublin hospitals that make up Children’s Health Ireland.