Consultants call for action to address extended waiting times

Over 600,000 people on waiting lists for outpatient appointments at end of year

Just 19,820 people had been given a date for their inpatient, day case or endoscopy procedure, which is only 20 percent of those waiting for this type of medical care the figures show. Photograph: Getty Images

Just 19,820 people had been given a date for their inpatient, day case or endoscopy procedure, which is only 20 percent of those waiting for this type of medical care the figures show. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has called on the government to act urgently in order to address address waiting lists after it was revealed that they grew longer over the course of 2021.

President of the IHCA, Professor Alan Irvine, said that more people were waiting for hospital treatment at the end of 2021 than at the start of the year, despite a four-month action plan from the government to address the issue.

“Unfortunately, with the recent increases in Covid cases, overcrowding in our Emergency Departments and widespread cancellation of essential scheduled care and outpatient appointments, there is little prospect of the waiting list coming under control anytime soon.”

Prof Irvine added that due to the pressures in the system, some people will be described erroneously as ‘non-urgent’ cases and will have their scheduled appointments cancelled.

“Their conditions will only become more serious and difficult to treat the longer they are left waiting - often in pain, suffering and facing the psychological distress of not knowing when they will be able to receive care.”

Over 600,000 people were waiting for an outpatient consultation by the end of 2021, and just 20 percent of people waiting for inpatient, day case or endoscopy treatment had been given a date for their first appointment according to the figures which were released on Friday.

In all, 617,448 Irish patients were waiting for their first hospital outpatient consultation at the end of last year, according to data published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).

In addition, 75,463 patients were waiting on an appointment for their inpatient or day case treatment by December 23rd, 2021, and a further 27,145 patients were waiting to receive an appointment for their GI endoscopy.

Just 19,820 people have been given a date for their inpatient, day case or endoscopy procedure, which is only 20 percent of those waiting for this type of medical care.

The hospitals with the most patients waiting for outpatient appointments were Galway University Hospitals, the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, and the University Hospitals in Limerick, Waterford and Tallaght.

Orthopaedics, otolaryngology (ENT), general surgery, dermatology, and ophthalmology were the specialties with the most patients waiting for outpatient care.

Hospitals which had the longest waiting lists for inpatient and day cases were Galway University Hospitals, the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, St James’s Hospital, Beaumont Hospital and University Hospital Waterford.

General surgery, orthopaedics, urology, ophthalmology, and gynaecology were the specialties with the most patients waiting for inpatient and day procedure care.

Separately 91,889 patients are recorded in the “planned procedure” category and 62,947 of these patients have appointments or indicative dates for when their procedure will occur.

These are patients who already had treatment and need more procedures at a future date, for example patients who had scopes who require surveillance monitoring.

A total of 47,512 patients are classified as “suspended”, which includes those who were temporarily unfit or unable to attend their appointment due to clinical or personal reasons.

The suspension category is also used where patients are being treated through various HSE insourcing or outsourcing initiatives.