Wednesday 23 October 2019

Outpatient waiting list hits record high

New figures show more than 523,200 patients were waiting for an outpatient appointment at the end of January

The number of patients on an outpatient waiting list has hit a record high (Andrew Matthews/PA)
The number of patients on an outpatient waiting list has hit a record high (Andrew Matthews/PA)

By Michelle Devane, Press Association  

The number of patients on an outpatient waiting list has hit a record high of 523,200.

New figures for the month of January show the number of people waiting increased by 7,000, from 516,100 at the end of December.

It compares to a low of 375,400 recorded at the end of December 2015.

The increase comes following the winter trolley crisis and the nurses’ strike on the last day of January.

The figures include 46,300 children waiting for an appointment in the country’s three children’s hospitals.

The statistics, released by the National Treatment Purchase Fund, also showed the number of people waiting for an inpatient or day case hospital procedure had increased by almost 2,000 to 72,000 at the end of January.

There was also an increase in the number of patients waiting to receive a GI endoscopy appointment – the figure increased from 18,800 at the end of December to 19,700 at the end of January.

Striking nurses from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation protest outside Naas General Hospital in Co Kildare (Niall Carson/PA)

Responding to the figures Health Minister Simon Harris said: “While I note that the numbers waiting for an inpatient/day case hospital procedure increased last month, this is a period which coincides with the HSE managing the ED pressures over the peak winter period.

“Undoubtedly these figures also reflect some of the impact arising from the INMO industrial action and the cancellation of elective procedures.

“The industrial unrest had significant impact across the entire health service.”

Mr Harris added: “The department is currently finalising its waiting list action plan for 2019 with 75 million euro allocated for the National Treatment Purchase Fund.”

Fianna Fail health spokesman Stephen Donnelly said: “Almost 11% of the population are waiting for an outpatient consultation and a huge number of them are waiting a very significant period for one.

“158,413 are waiting over a year with 96,243 of them left waiting on a list longer than 18 months. 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.”

Mr Donnelly said it was “simply appalling” that the figures showed there were more than 11,000 children waiting more than 18 months on the outpatient waiting list.

“I am also concerned that following improvements during 2018 in the number of inpatient/day case patients waiting, the number waiting has increased to 72,027,” he said.

“Despite pledges in 2018 Minister Harris never published an outpatient action plan. As the number waiting over 18 months is now heading for 100,000 it is ever more urgent that he do so.”

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