Monday 21 August 2017

677,594 in queue as 'hidden' hospital waiting lists continue to grow

Outsourcing patients: Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Julien Behal
Outsourcing patients: Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Julien Behal
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The so-called "hidden" hospital waiting lists are continuing to grow with new figures showing an extra 88,395 patients who have been given a date for surgery or who need follow-up hospital care adding to the wait.

The so-called "hidden" hospital waiting lists are continuing to grow with new figures showing an extra 88,395 patients who have been given a date for surgery or who need follow-up hospital care adding to the wait.

These patients were not publicly counted until earlier this year and the figure was up from 87,707 in April.

But when added to the regular published waiting lists of 589,199 for the end of June, it means 677,594 people are in some form of hospital queue.

This is another record and underlines how waiting lists are among the major crises facing the Government, with little respite in sight for patients.

The June figures for published waiting lists showed the scale of misery endured by public patients as hospitals are clearly unable to cope with growing demands for treatment.

The queue has climbed from 545,147 in January to 589,199 at the end of June.

These include 86,018 needing surgery, 18,335 on a list for endoscopy and 484,346 facing delays for an outpatient appointment.

Significantly, 2,937 patients were waiting for surgery for over 18 months in January -but 5,872 are now in the same predicament.

In January, there were 178 children in need of surgery waiting at least 18 months.

But this has now soared to 577, according to the figures compiled by the National Treatment Purchase Fund.

The trolley crisis and lack of staff are among the drivers fuelling the waiting list.

Some €20m was allocated this year to outsource waiting list patients, many of them to private hospitals.

The aim was to have more than 2,000 patients waiting longest for a daycase procedure referred for an appointment by the end of June.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund has said that so far over 2,900 patients' files have been transferred to private hospitals under the outsourcing initiative.

By the end of last month, more than 800 patients had accepted an offer of treatment in a private hospital and 278 have received their procedure.

But this is not keeping pace with the continuing increase in the numbers of patients coming on to waiting lists.

Galway University Hospital has the largest number of patients in need of surgery with a list of 11,513.

The Mater Hospital in Dublin has a surgical waiting list of 6,738 and there are 6,099 in the queue in Beaumont Hospital.

Meanwhile, a report by the Royal College of Surgeons showed that while more than 50pc of medical graduates are female, just 34pc of surgical trainees are women.

Less than 7pc of consultant surgeons are women, showing a major gender divide.

Irish Independent

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