Varadkar stands by his claim of lower hospital waiting times

Minister says figures are improving despite discrepancy between his and NTPF figures

Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher: “It’s bad enough that the Minister moved the goalposts on waiting times. Now it seems he can’t even read the scoreboard.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher: “It’s bad enough that the Minister moved the goalposts on waiting times. Now it seems he can’t even read the scoreboard.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 
Leo Varadkar

Mr Varadkar said yesterday 1,988 patients were waiting for an outpatient appointment for more than 18 months, out of a total of 402,000 patients on the list.

This equated to 99.6 per cent achievement of his target of reducing the number waiting over 18 months to zero by the end of June, he said.

However, official figures published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) show 5,427 patients were waiting for an outpatient appointment for more than two years on June 30th – over 3,000 more than the figure cited by the Minister.

Treatments

In addition, a significant number of patients had been scheduled for treatments or appointments in private hospitals, to be provided in the next few weeks. “The figures do not include these patients.”

Asked whether this meant patients were being removed from the waiting list before they were seen, the spokesman said that under NTPF rules, a patient was removed from the list where scheduled care was being provided within six weeks. Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher claimed the figures provided by Mr Varadkar were “not true”. “It’s bad enough that the Minister moved the goalposts on waiting times. Now it seems he can’t even read the scoreboard,” he said.

Target

The target is a modest one, given former minister for health James Reilly promised nobody would have to wait more than 12 months for an appointment and later reduced this target to nine months. The overall outpatient waiting list dropped more than 12,000, to 402,156, at the end of June, according to the NTPF.

Drop

It reduced the number of patients waiting more than 12 months by 6,178 in a month – this would equate to about 300 appointments a day if carried out solely in the hospital.

Letterkenny General Hospital (down 35 per cent) and South Infirmary Cork (down 40 per cent) also cut their long waiting times significantly.