Nearly 500,000 people now on hospital waiting lists

Number of people waiting for consultant appointment rises by another 3,000

There were 497,721 people on the out-patient waiting list nationally at the end of November. Photograph: PA Wire

There were 497,721 people on the out-patient waiting list nationally at the end of November. Photograph: PA Wire

 

The number of people waiting for an out-patient appointment to see a hospital consultant stands at nearly 500,000, new data shows.

Figures published on Friday by the National Treatment Purchase Fund reveal there were 497,721 people on the out-patient waiting list nationally at the end of November.

This represented an increase of just over 3,000 on the figure for October.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said there was clearly a problem with waiting times, and there would be a particular focus on this area in 2018.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said that to have 134,637 out-patients waiting over a year for a consultation was “ just staggering”.

He said this represented an increase of nearly 50,000 year on year, up from 84,746 in November 2016.

“It is clear from these figures that the National Treatment Purchase Fund will have to be extended beyond in-patient/ day cases and start focusing on out-patients too,” Mr Kelleher said.

“It’s likely too that the 18-month plus [WAITING TIME]category doesn’t give the full picture. For example this week the Saolta group admitted that the waiting time for a routine neurology outpatient appointment in Letterkenny Hospital is actually three years.”

“The fact that the in-patient/day case list didn’t increase is some consolation but the falls of the previous three months have not been repeated in November. It is to be hoped that the increased funding in 2018 for the National Treatment Purchase Fund will enable some real and sustained progress to be made. We can’t go on with waiting times like these.”

Overall there were 684,940 patients waiting for care around the country on various different types of waiting lists.

Waiting for operations

The number of people waiting for an in-patient procedure fell slightly over the last month to just under 80,600.

The Minister said: “ For the fourth month in a row the number of people waiting for an operation or a procedure has fallen. This is the lowest number of people waiting for an operation or procedure in the last 12 months.

“The figures also show us that more than 50 per cent of people have their operation in less than six months and more than a third in less than three months.”

Mr Harris added: “I don’t think anyone accepts the overall waiting list figure is a true reflection of the situation. For example, it includes tens of thousands of people who have been asked by their doctor to come back for a follow up procedure and have an appointment for the appropriate time. That’s not ’waiting’, that’s clinical decision making.

Trinity College are doing an important piece of work on how other countries collate waiting lists and report against them. I expect to receive the results of this early in the new year and will follow that expert advice.”