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Dublin: 4 °C Wednesday 26 February, 2020
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Waiting list figures on the rise as more than 550,000 patients waiting for an appointment

The IHCA criticised the latest figures and said the Government had failed to meet its own 2019 targets.

Image: Shutterstock/Hadrian

MORE THAN 550,000 people were waiting for their fist hospital outpatient appointment at the end of 2019 – an increase on the 516,000 who were waiting for appointments in December 2018.

Figures published today from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) for December 2019, show some 553,434 patients are waiting for their first consultation, while 66,563 patients were waiting for an appointment for their inpatient or day case treatment. 

Some 22,244 patients were waiting to receive an appointment for their GI endoscopy, or scope procedure, appointment. 

Following the publication of the figures, Dr Donal O’Hanlon of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said the Government had missed the 2019 targets to reduce waiting times for hospital operations and procedures. 

He pointed to the recruitment and retention crisis within the HSE as a reason for the delay in reducing the number of patients on waiting lists. 

“The consultant recruitment and retention crisis, with over 500 permanent consultant posts now unfilled, is a key factor in the long wait times patients face,” O’Hanlon said. 

“The discrimination against new consultants must be ended to fill the large number of permanent vacant consultant posts and expand hospital consultant staffing which is the lowest in the EU, adjusted for population.”

He added: “The latest waiting list figures confirm that the health service has too few hospital consultants and insufficient capacity to cope with current demand. 

“Since the current Government took office in May 2016, it has presided over an increase of 137,850 people to the outpatient waiting list, which is a 33% increase.”

A statement from Health Minister Simon Harris last March said, under the scheduled care access plan, that the number of patients waiting for their first appointment would fall to below 509,000 – some 36,000 more patients have joined that list. 

The NTPF also published data on the number of patients on pre-admit, planned procedure and suspension lists. 

The pre-admit data shows that 25,209 have been given a date for their in-patient, day case or endoscopy procedure.

Some 82,043 patients are recorded in the planned procedure category and 67,490 of these patients have indicative dates in the future or have an appointment.

A further 19,271 patients were classified as suspended – patients who are temporarily unfit or unable to attend due to clinical or personal reasons. 

The NTPF has been allocated €100m in Budget 2020, an increase of €25m on 2019.

The additional funding will be used to benefit patients throughout the country, as the NTPF maintains its strong focus on improving waiting times for inpatient and daycase treatment, while also significantly increasing its focus on outpatients.

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