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Over half of public hospitals have people waiting 12 months for surgery

Department of Health figures show people still waiting over a year for inpatient procedures – well past an original deadline.

HSE director general designate Tony O'Brien - who previously served as CEO of the National Treatment Purchase Fund - and health minister James Reilly.
HSE director general designate Tony O'Brien - who previously served as CEO of the National Treatment Purchase Fund - and health minister James Reilly.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

22 PUBLIC HOSPITALS in Ireland had patients waiting over 12 months for an inpatient surgical procedure at the end of January – over a year after James Reilly’s initial target that waiting lists of over 12 months be abolished.

Figures from the Patient Treatment Register show that a total of 285 people had been awaiting an inpatient surgical procedure for over 12 months at the end of January 2013.

That figure is down significantly from the equivalent point in 2012, when there had been 907 people waiting, but shows that long periods on waiting lists are still fluctuating – given that only two hospitals had people waiting over 12 months for surgery at the end of 2011.

In an illustration of how the figures can fluctuate from month to month, waiting list data from the end of December 2011 showed that only two hospitals (University College Hospital Galway and its sister institution at Merlin Park) as having any patients waiting over 12 months for surgery.

Figures from just four weeks later, however, showed that 24 public hospitals (out of 42) had patients waiting over 12 months – though the majority had only a single-digit number of people waiting for over 12 months.

11 hospitals have seen 12-month-plus waiting lists increase between that date in 2012 and January 24 this year, the last time when figures were taken.

In all but one of those cases, however, the number of people who had been waiting over 9 months for a procedure had fallen. In total, and including those waiting over a year, 1,420 people were waiting over nine months for an inpatient procedure – down from 5,119 a year earlier.

12-month-plus lists remain, over a year after original target

The progress, though significant, is well behind the deadline originally set by James Reilly in 2011 when he made significant changes to the workings of the National Treatment Purchase Fund – which pays for treatments in either private or public hospitals so that waiting lists can be slowly eliminated.

Announcing those changes in July 2011, Reilly instructed all public hospitals to have no patients waiting more than 12 months by the end of that year. The data from the end of 2011, contained in the NTPF’s annual report for 2011, showed that this had been achieved in all but two hospitals.

The government’s Budget estimates for 2013 assigned only €5,587,000 in funding for the NTPF and the Special Delivery Unit, which is responsible for eliminating patients waiting on trolleys for treatment in an emergency ward.

In 2012, by comparison, €70,587,000 had been assigned to the two programmes.

The figures are not related to waiting lists for outpatient procedures, which remain significant.

The most recent outpatient waiting lists, also compiled in January 2013, showed 109,034 were waiting over 12 months for an outpatient procedure – including 9,784 who were waiting for over four years.

Last month Reilly said he wanted to eliminate all 12-month waiting lists for outpatients by the end of November this year 2013.

A spokesman for Reilly said previous governments had failed to grasp the gravity of the problem of outpatient waiting lists, but said the figures needed to be compared to the fact that tens of thousands of outpatient appointments were fulfilled each week.

ReaD: Two Limerick hospitals account for 60pc of outpatients waiting over four years

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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