The number of people waiting for hospital care continues to climb significantly as a result of delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and there are now close to 850,000 people waiting for some form of treatment.
Fresh figures published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) on Friday evening suggest that there were 612,083 patients waiting for a first hospital outpatient consultation at the end of September. This compares with 601,362 people on the outpatient waiting list at the end of July
At the start of the year, just over 553,000 patients were on the list.
The NTPF figures also show that at the end of last month there were 75,902 patients waiting for an appointment for an inpatient or day case treatment while 34,605 people were waiting to receive an appointment for a GI Endoscopy.
In addition, the NTPF also publishes data on pre-admissions and planned procedures.
The pre-admit data shows that 19,981 people have been given a date for in-patient, daycase or endoscopy procedures while 86,773 patients are recorded in the planned procedure category with 62,716 of these patients having been given indicative dates in the future or a scheduled appointment.
These are patients who have already had treatment and require further treatment at a future date. Indicative dates are determined by a clinician and treatment before these dates would not be appropriate.
As more patients are initially seen and given a follow-up appointment for ongoing treatment or surveillance the number of patients on the planned procedure list increases.
A total of 833,344 patients are on some form of waiting list monitored by the NTPF.
The Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of all non-urgent hospital work in the spring and although activities have resumed across the health service, capacity is reduced to about 80 per cent or less due to the requirement for infection control.
The President of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) Prof Alan Irvine said the new figures pointed to the need for “urgent action and leadership”.
“Waiting lists growth is seen across specialties and the number of outpatients waiting longer than a year for an appointment has increased by over 78,000 since the start of 2020 to a total of 249,959,” he said.
“To address this growing patient backlog, we must immediately fill the 500 vacant hospital consultant posts,” he continued.
He said Government could “no longer ignore the fundamental requirement that treatment is delivered by consultants and other health care professionals and that no amount of investment in services will reduce these waiting lists unless we recruit and retain the necessary number of staff to deliver care.”