Wednesday 16 October 2019

Despite slight drop 568,769 public patients still waiting to see a specialist

The figures were released by the National Treatment Purchase Fund.
The figures were released by the National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Eilish O’Regan

Hospital outpatient waiting lists have recorded the first drop this year – but 568,769 are still in the queue to see a specialist.

Figures for September show a monthly drop of 729 in the numbers waiting for a first-time appointment at an outpatient clinic.

There are 106,418 waiting for at least a year and half compared to 106,786 in August.

At the end of last year the outpatient waiting list stood at 516,162 and it has continued to climb since then until this minor respite.

The latest figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) show that at the end of September, some 67,985 were waiting for surgery - compared to 68,390 in August.

There were 22,197 patients waiting to receive an appointment for their GI Endoscopy last month, down from 22,544 in August.

The NTPF was allocated €100m in this week’s Budget 2020, an increase of €25m on 2019.

The funding will go towards purchasing treatments and appointments for public patients in private and public hospitals.

A spokesman for the NTPF said: "The additional funding will be used to benefit patients throughout the country, as the NTPF maintains its strong focus on improving waiting times for inpatient and day case treatment, while also significantly increasing its focus on outpatients.

"The NTPF will also be in a position to support public hospital emergency departments, including by funding diagnostic scans."

Responding to the latest waiting list figures Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on health Stephen Donnelly said, “It’s really disappointing to see such little progress on the inpatient list. The number of men, women and children waiting for treatment in hospital fell by just 400, from a total of nearly 70,000 people.

“At this rate, it would take 14 years to clear inpatient waiting lists alone. As we heard from the hospital consultants earlier this week, many of these people are suffering while they wait, and are getting sicker. And on top of this, the State ends up paying more in the end for the more complex care required.

“It is worth noting that the National Treatment Purchase Fund, insisted on by Fianna Fáil, is providing treatment to many thousands of people. Without this, the figure of 70,000 would be much higher.

“We also see from today’s figures that the number of people waiting to see a consultant for the first time remained almost static in September.

“At this rate, it would take 65 years to clear this list – and all that would mean is that people could see a consultant shortly after they were referred. The Government target was to bring the total number of people waiting down from 516,000 to 509,000 in 2019. Instead, nearly 570,000 are waiting – up more than 45,000 since January.

“Incredibly, that includes more than 106,000 waiting more than a year-and-a-half. When he was Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar vowed that his Government would bring the number waiting more than a year-and-a-half down to zero. In Minister Harris’ time it has grown from a starting point of 13,000. So, for every one person who was waiting when Minister Harris took office, there are now seven people waiting. That’s in just three years, and in spite of €3.6bn in new funding given to Minister Harris.

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Health Simon Harris said: "The minister welcomes the reduction in the NTPF figures published today."

He said there has been significant progress on hospital operation waiting times and fewer patients are now waiting or hospital operations than he came into office.

The spokeswoman said the minister has been clear he wants to see a similar focus applied to outpatient waiting lists.

“He met with the Health Service Executive CEO, the National Treatment Purchase Fund and his Department officials today to discuss waiting lists and how the health service can make further progress by the end of the year.

"The minister will meet again with the HSE and NTPF in two weeks to consider these proposals and to plan for 2020 and the very significant allocation given to the NTPF in Budget 2020, including a focus on the community."

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