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There are 11,519 children waiting over a year to be seen in an Irish hospital

An analysis by TheJournal.ie of data shows the average number of children waiting over 12 months on the inpatient list over the last two years is 1,605% higher than in the two years before that.

An artist's impression of the new children's hospital at St Jame's Hospital in Dublin 8.
An artist's impression of the new children's hospital at St Jame's Hospital in Dublin 8.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

THE NUMBER OF children waiting over 12 months for an inpatient appointment is now the highest on record, having passed the 1,000-mark for the first time.

An analysis by TheJournal.ie of data prepared by the National Treatment Purchase Fund shows that the overall number of children on any hospital waiting list is also at a record high, and has been steadily rising.

Overall, there are 11,519 children waiting over a year to be seen in hospital.

There are 1,001 children currently waiting over a year for an inpatient appointment, compared to 545 in June 2015.

There are now 69,878 children on the outpatient waiting list, the highest it has ever been – and over 10,000 higher than this time two years ago.

There are 10,518 children on the outpatient waiting list for more than 12 months.

The number of children waiting greater than 15 months for outpatient consultations is currently 2,388, meanwhile.

Patient groups say the situation is getting out of control.

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The number of children on a waiting list for inpatient or daycase appointments is at its second highest level - 8,056 children, compared to 6,707 a year ago.

The average number of children waiting over 12 months on the inpatient list over the last two years, meanwhile, is 1,605% higher than in the two years before that.

Back in June 2012, there were just 21 children waiting more than a year for an inpatient appointment.

Inpatient appointments involve a least one overnight stay in hospital, while outpatient appointments or procedures are generally carried out during working hours.

Daycases refer to episodes where a person makes a planned admission to an available staffed bed in a hospital for clinical care. It requires the use of a bed – or a trolley – for recovery purposes.

childrenwaitinglists

Overall, there are 69,878 children on outpatient waiting lists as of June 2016, compared to 65,541 in June 2015.

There are also now 8,056 children on inpatient waiting lists, compared to 6,707 a year ago, and 5,142 in June 2014.

The data includes all children on waiting lists throughout the hospital sector, and not just in children’s hospitals.

Out of control

Hillary Dunne of Patient First and the Irish Society for Quality and Safety in Healthcare said the figures are getting out of control.

“The lists are going up and the children are not getting seen, in some ways we’re not utilising the beds or they’re closing wards,” she told TheJournal.ie.

“The waiting lists are getting out of control. In lot of cases we don’t have enough consultants in certain areas like dermatology, or even something as basic as speech therapy, it’s escalating.

Beaumont Source: Rollingnews.ie

“There are a variety of reasons that these things are happening, our ability to replace consultants our ability to validate a list to ensure everyone on it will make the appointment.

The only way we’re only going to solve the problems is a cross-party 10-year plan, to sign up and agree the targets.

Which hospital?

These are the latest figures for the number of children waiting for inpatient or daycase appointments at selected hospitals:

  • Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin: 3,075 (490 waiting over a year)
  • Temple Street Children’s Hospital: 1,101
  • Galway University Hospital: 718
  • Tallaght Hospital: 564
  • Waterford Regional Hospital: 447 
  • Tullamore Hospital 411
  • Sligo Regional Hospital: 346
  • Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda: 308

In a statement, the Department of Health told TheJournal.ie that the increases should be seen in the context of a considerable increase in demand for care in recent years.

“Our hospitals have been considerably busier this year,” a spokeswoman said.

Up to the end of May 2016, over 19,000 more scheduled inpatient/daycase procedures were carried out than in the same period last year.

0102 Simon Harris children hospital Minister for Health Simon Harris with Karen Morgan and her son James (2) as they mark the first phase of construction of the new children's hospital at St. James's Hospital, Dublin. Source: RollingNews.ie

The department added that admissions to children’s hospitals are ahead of expectations, with 42,000 emergency presentations to the Children’s Hospitals Group (CHG) in the first four months of the year, up 5% on the same period last year.

While demand is up 5% in the four months of this year, however, the figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund show the average number of children on inpatient waiting lists in CHG hospitals is up 60% compared to the same period last year.

The average number on the outpatient waiting list in the seven CHG hospitals, meanwhile, was up 19%. 

Hospital A file photo from the ED in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has asked the HSE for an action plan to tackle waiting lists.

“Preliminary results from the 2016 Census indicate that our population has grown by nearly 4% since the 2011 Census,” the department added.

“Our high birth rate means that there is a greater demand for paediatric health care.”

The department added:

For patients, the key issue is how long they have to wait.

The department stressed that around 35% of children wait less than three months, and nearly 60% of children wait less than six months for their required appointment.

The department added that the HSE is examining whether the extension of free GP care to children under the age of six has led to more children attending hospitals.

The department added that work is ongoing to cut the numbers who fail to attend appointments. They said “particular challenges” are being experienced in some specialities.

Nearly €1 million is being provided for additional staff for paediatric orthopaedics, they added.

HSE targets

HSE table Source: HSE

In a separate statement, the HSE told TheJournal.ie that there are specific challenges in certain specialities such as ENT (ear, nose and throat) and orthopaedics, in terms of attracting and retaining consultants and nursing staff.

It said that its service plan sets targets for waiting times, which concentrates on waiting times of over 15 months.

It added:

“The number of children waiting greater than 15 months for inpatient and daycare [appointments] currently is 207 which represents 4% of all children waiting.

The number of children waiting greater than 15 months for Outpatient consultations is currently 2,388 which represents 7% of all children waiting.

The HSE also said that hospitals are focusing on improving “chronological scheduling, clinical and administrative validation and optimisation of existing capacity”.

Clinical need will determine that some patients require care more urgently than others and it is appropriate that patients are prioritised on this basis.

They added that, after this, patients waiting longest must be prioritised.

Data analysis by Dan MacGuill.

Read: Number of inpatients on a waiting list for over a year has jumped by 1,535%

Read: FactCheck: How much worse are hospital waiting lists getting?

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