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'Simply appalling': Record high in number of people waiting for outpatient appointments

Figures could rise again next month, due to the fallout from the nurses’ strike.

File photo. Hospital exterior.
File photo. Hospital exterior.
Image: Leon Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

WAITING LISTS FOR hospital appointments in Ireland rose sharply in last month, with an extra 7,000 people waiting for their first hospital outpatient consultation. 

The total number of patients waiting for their first outpatient consultation at the end of the month was 523,225, with a further 72.027 patients waiting for an appointment for their inpatient or day case treatment.

In January, hospital overcrowding over the winter months persisted and also coincided with the first day of the nurses’ strike at the end of the month.

Fianna Fáil’s health spokesperson Stephen Donnelly said some of the figures were “simply appalling”.

“158,413 are waiting over a year with 96,243 of them left waiting on a list longer than 18 months,” he said. “It is four years since Leo Varadkar, as Health Minister, set a target that no-one would wait more than 18 months and we are further away than ever from reaching that target.”

The latest figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) also show that 19,748 patients were waiting to receive an appointment for their GI Endoscopy in January.

This is coupled with the 75,175 patients listed in the planned procedure category, with 62,044 of these having indicative dates set, or an appointment.

The NTPF said: “These are patients who have already had treatment and require further treatment at a future date (e.g. a patient who has had a scope may require surveillance monitoring scopes in the future) and have been assigned indicative dates for treatment. These indicative dates are determined by a clinician and treatment before these dates would not be appropriate.”

A further 27,310 patients have been given a date for their inpatient/day case or endoscopy procedure, and 12,452 patients are classified as “suspended”. This refers to patients who are temporarily unfit or unable to attend due to clinical or personal/social reasons.

In all, it means there were more than 700,000 patients on some form of hospital waiting list last month. 

Some of these figures may rise even further next month, following the industrial action taken by nurses over a number of days this month. 

The NTPF is the statutory body which arranges provisions for hospital treatment for citizens. 

It was granted a further €20 million in funding this year, bringing its total funding from the government to €75 million.

This year, it will arrange treatment for 25,000 patients on the active inpatient/day case waiting list, 5,000 gastrointestinal endoscopies and 40,000 first-time outpatient consultant appointments.

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Sean Murray

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