Tuesday 15 October 2019

Outpatient waiting list soars by 50pc in four years

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Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Patient waiting lists have soared in four years and are reaching crisis point, advocacy groups claim.

An analysis by the Irish Patients' Association (IPA) found an additional 194,000 people are waiting for outpatient appointments now compared with 2015 - an increase of more than 50pc. The vast majority of those have waited for more than a year.

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The IPA said the increase in patients waiting has risen by 43pc since 2015 across three categories examined - outpatients, inpatient waiting lists for elective surgery such as hip replacements and waiting lists for inpatient endoscopies.

The upward trend in waiting times was confirmed again last Friday with new figures showing that waiting times for hospital outpatient appointments have reached record levels.

"We have seen that there has been a huge increase in health funding with an extra €2.6bn to cover over-runs yet the numbers on waiting lists continue to increase," said IPA co-founder Stephen McMahon.

"The numbers of patients waiting for elective surgeries for more than 12 months have doubled. An additional 194,000 patients are now waiting for their first consultant- led appointment and an extra 146,481 of those are waiting more than 12 months. Where is the bang for our buck here?

"The Government should look on this as a crisis," he said. "We are talking here about people waiting years."

The figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund released last Friday showed that more than 569,498 were waiting for outpatient appointments at the end of August.

The Department of Health set targets to reduce the numbers of patients waiting for outpatient appointments to 509,000 by the end of this year. But the latest figures show that the underlying upward trend continues.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association said the crisis over the shortage of consultants is "driving up patient wait times" and demanded that the Government "staff our hospitals".

Stephen Donnelly, the Fianna Fail health spokesman, pointed out last Friday that the outpatient list has increased every month this year and the numbers waiting for more than 18 months has risen by 715pc since Simon Harris became the Minister for Health.

Sunday Independent

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