News Irish News

Saturday 24 August 2019

Hospital waiting lists hit their highest ever level as emergency departments suffer from overcrowding

A record high of 564,829 patients are waiting to see a specialist. Stock photo: PA
A record high of 564,829 patients are waiting to see a specialist. Stock photo: PA
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

Hospital waiting lists have reached a record high of 564,829 patients in line to see a specialist, as Ireland continues to have one of the worst waiting times in Europe.

The latest data by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) is a jump of 4,578 in the space of just one month. 

This is an increase of 53,154 patients (10.4pc) since this time last year and an increase of 4,578 in a month and by 48,667 since the start of 2019.

The record number comes as Emergency Departments continue to suffer winter levels of overcrowding, putting pressure on beds. 

However, headway is being made for those waiting for an appointment for inpatient or day case treatment, falling from 69,671 in June to 68,807 last month. 

According to the figures, 22,592 patients were also waiting to receive an appointment for their GI Endoscopy, down 645 compared to June.

“The Pre-Admit data shows that 29,494 have been given a date for their Inpatient / Daycase or Endoscopy procedure,” the NTPF reported.

“78,889 patients are recorded in the Planned Procedure category and 65,014 of these patients have indicative dates in the future or have an appointment.  

“These are patients who have already had treatment and require further treatment at a future date and have been assigned indicative dates for treatment.

“As more patients are initially seen and given a follow-up appointment for ongoing treatment or surveillance the number of patients on the Planned Procedure list increases," the report stated.

Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) spokesperson Dr Donal O’Hanlon said the consultant recruitment and retention crisis are a key factor in the long wait times patients now face. 

“We need to end this crisis,” he said. 

“To do so, Minister for Health, Simon Harris, must honour his commitment to begin talks with consultant representative bodies in September.”

In the past five years the numbers waiting have increased by 204,076. The increase has occurred at a time when there are more than 500 permanent consultant posts that cannot be filled because of the Government’s inaction.

Dr O’Hanlon added that Ireland is consistently singled out as having the worst waiting lists in Europe, and that this is never going to improve without the required number of hospital consultants. 

A spokesperson for Health Minister Simon Harris said this week that the Government acknowledges waiting times "are too long in certain areas". 

However, his office argued that adding various waiting lists together "does not create an accurate picture and it disregards increasing activity in our health service with more people being treated each year".

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News