Wednesday 24 July 2019

‘National scandal’: Almost one million patients are on health service waiting lists

Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Almost one million people are on health service waiting lists, according to shocking new figures.

The compilation of waiting lists figures across the HSE shows nearly a fifth of the population is currently enduring an agonising wait for a health service appointment.

Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary said the figures represented a “national scandal” which needs to be urgently addressed by the Government.

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

A spokesperson for Health Minister Simon Harris admitted waiting lists were a “significant challenge” for the Government but insisted they were making progress.

The figures compiled by Fianna Fáil show there are 511,415 people waiting to see a hospital consultant. Among them are 148,000 people who have waited more than a year, according to figures calculated using information from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).

There are 54,789 children waiting – 17,639 of them for more than a year and 10,295 for over 18 months.

In total, the NTPF database shows there were 717,419 people on waiting lists in June. Fianna Fáil also included waiting list figures for community services and diagnostics scans.

The data shows there are 135,000 people waiting for MRIs, ultrasounds and CT scans. Meanwhile, 2,691 children are on waiting lists for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

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.

“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,” Mr Calleary 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,” he added.

A spokesperson for Mr Harris said the Government is “committed to tackling” the waiting list crisis.

In a statement, the HSE said that almost half a million (479,000) outpatients did not attend their outpatient appointments last year.

“In order to help patients access timely appointments, the HSE is asking patients to let their hospital know as soon as possible if they cannot attend scheduled appointments so that other patients may be offered appointments,” it said.

It said 60pc of the patients on waiting lists are now waiting less than six months for their treatment while more than a third (36pc) wait less than three months.

The statement also said that “despite significant pressures and challenges” on community based services, improvements were being made.

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