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'A national scandal': Almost one million on health waiting lists in first half of year

There were 997,258 patient appointments outstanding in the first half of the year.

Image: Billion Photos via Shutterstock

ALMOST ONE MILLION patient appointments were outstanding in the first half of 2018, new figures have revealed.

An analysis of various health waiting lists, obtained by Fianna Fáil’s deputy leader Dara Calleary, has shown that there were 997,258 patient appointments outstanding in the first half of the year.

Calleary has described the situation as a national scandal.

A total of 511,415 people were waiting on outpatient appointments in June of this year, while over 148,000 outpatients had been waiting over one year to see a consultant.

Meanwhile, another 135,094 people were waiting on diagnostic appointments in April of this year.

“The vast majority of this list is based on the National Treatment Purchase Fund monthly waiting times. In June 2018, some 717,419 were on the lists compiled by the fund,” Calleary said.

“However, the NTPF does not publish waiting lists for a number of diagnostic scans and the latest available figures (April 2018) showed a further 135,000 waiting for MRIs, ultrasounds and CT scans,” he said.

The very fact that there are almost one million people waiting for an appointment speaks for itself. Never before have we seen a situation whereby people have been failed so badly by a government.

The data also shows that there were 37,229 people waiting for either speech and language therapy or assessment in June 2018.

A further 31,361 were waiting for an occupational therapy assessment in the same month.

Calleary said that the HSE was unable to provide figures for the number of people waiting for actual occupational therapy treatment.

“The scale of these waiting lists is truly shocking and highlights very clearly the level of demand and the lack of capacity available to meet it,” he said.

“There will be no improvement in the situation unless there is investment in capacity, and as our population continues to live longer, it poses more serious issues for our health service.

“The time for grand plans, staged strategies and PR launches is over, what we need now is action.”

Additional funding

A spokesperson for Minister for Health Simon Harris has said that €50 million was being invested in the NTPF this year to tackle waiting lists.

“The health service will treat 3.3 million outpatients this year and deliver 1.7m hospital operations or procedures – outside the additional work under the National Treatment Purchase Fund,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Of the 1.7 million procedures, the spokesperson said an estimated 435,000 are from the waiting list.

“Inpatient figures for the end of June show 78,000 patients are waiting for a hospital inpatient or day case procedure. This represents a drop of 8,100, or 9.4%, in just 11 months,” they said.

“The Outpatient Waiting List remains a significant challenge but the Minister is committed to continuing to work to ensure that the progress we’re seeing on the hospital waiting lists is also reflected in the outpatient lists.

“It is worth noting that in 2017 almost half a million (477,000) outpatients did not attend their appointment. Therefore, the validation of waiting lists is an important part of the successful management of waiting lists and clinics in ensuring timely access for patients.”

The HSE has been contacted for comment.

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