61,400 are waiting over year to see a specialist
THE number of public patients waiting over a year for an outpatient appointment rose to 61,400 at the end of last year, new figures show.
Overall, 385,781 were on outpatient lists, the latest end-of-year performance report from the Health Service Executive (HSE) revealed.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar said while there were some small-scale improvements in the health service last year, it also shows the scale of the challenge confronting the health service.
"The reduction in delayed discharges from 835 to 719 in December shows that the €3m in extra Fair Deal funding provided in December did have a positive impact."
However, the number of people stuck in hospital awaiting discharge was still 17pc higher than December 2013.
The minister said that Fair Deal funding was allocated early in December ahead of an expected winter increase in trolley numbers, "and this report confirms that numbers were increasing at the time".
Emergency department attendances were up 3.1pc in December compared with the previous year, while admissions were up 1.7pc.
Since then even more measures have been introduced and around 1,000 extra transitional care beds are being sourced in private nursing homes across the country, according to Mr Varadkar.
He said: "Waiting lists were generally longer throughout 2014, but towards the end of the year we began to see some improvements.
"There was a small reduction in the number of people waiting more than 13 weeks for a routine gastro-intestinal endoscopy in December. The HSE is running a targeted initiative to address patients waiting over 13 weeks for such treatment."
He said that last year "we exceeded our targets for specialist palliative care provided within seven days of referral for those in inpatient beds and for people in their own homes.
"The number of people receiving home care packages at 13,199 was 21pc above the 2014 target. We just about met our 2014 target for the number of home help hours provided."
Referring to ambulances, Mr Varadkar said that 4pc more calls were received during 2014 compared with 2013.
Some 66pc of ambulances were released and available at hospital emergency departments within 30 minutes.