Surge in numbers on waiting list for hospital procedures

Department says trend has reversed and numbers on trolleys has begun to fall

The number of patients waiting for medical and surgical procedures in hospitals has increased significantly to almost 50,000 over the past year, according to new official figures.

However, there has also been a considerable reduction in the overall numbers of patients waiting on trolleys in hospital emergency departments, although the position has deteriorated in some individual hospitals.

A report published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund shows that the numbers waiting overall for medical and surgical procedures, including day cases but excluding gastrointestinal endoscopies, increased from 43,051 in August of last year to 49,695 in August 2013.

The number of patients waiting longer than nine months for medical and surgical procedures more than doubled from 2,199 in August last year to 4,729 in August this year.The numbers waiting longer than one year increased from 380 to 1,003.


The Department of Health said yesterday that while the numbers on waiting lists had increased earlier in the year, this trend had now reversed.

Down 2 per cent
Other figures in the report show that when those requiring gastrointestinal endoscopies are included, the numbers on the waiting lists overall in August stood at 58,649, down 2 per cent from the overall figure of 59,932 in July.

A spokesman for Minister for Health James Reilly said last night: "Significant pressures on emergency departments in hospitals earlier in the year resulted in an adverse effect on elective waiting lists.

“Much work has been done since that time and these figures show a welcome improvement in the trend. The overall waiting list is down, longest waiters are being reduced and the target is to have no one waiting over eight months by year’s end.”

In its performance report for August, the National Treatment Purchase Fund and the health service Special Delivery Unit said there had been a 12 per cent reduction in the number of patients on trolleys waiting for a hospital bed between 2012 and 2013. Between 2011 and 2013, there had been a 30 per cent reduction in this number, it said.

The report also said that in hospitals such as St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin, there had been a “significant performance improvement” in relation to numbers on trolleys over recent months, but the position had deteriorated in hospitals such as Tallaght.

It said that in Tallaght, a significant performance deterioration had begun in March this year and that there was a 37 per cent increase in the numbers waiting on trolleys between January and August this year compared with the same period last year.

It added that causal factors for this included “less than optimal patient processing”.

Performance deterioration
The National Treatment Purchase Fund report said there had been a significant performance deterioration in the situation at Waterford Regional Hospital that started in March of this year.

At St Vincent’s University Hospital, there had been a 56 per cent fall in the numbers of patients in the emergency department waiting on trolleys for a ward bed between summer 2012 and this year.

Department sources said one of the factors leading to the improvement was “specialist ward reconfiguration and designation”– or admitting patients with conditions such as respiratory illness to wards dealing with these problems specifically.

The report also said there had been a significant performance improvement at the Mater hospital this year, where there had been a 52 per cent fall in the numbers on trolleys between April and August.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent