Almost 613,000 people now on hospital outpatient waiting lists

Ella Castle

[ad_1] Hospital waiting lists have reached a new record high, with almost 60,000 additional people waiting for an outpatient appointment since the beginning of the year, latest figures show. A record 612,817 people were waiting for outpatient care by the end of October, up 734 on the previous month, according […]

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Hospital waiting lists have reached a new record high, with almost 60,000 additional people waiting for an outpatient appointment since the beginning of the year, latest figures show.

A record 612,817 people were waiting for outpatient care by the end of October, up 734 on the previous month, according to data from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). At the start of the year, just over 553,000 patients were on the list.

An outpatient department treats people with health problems who visit the hospital for diagnosis or treatment, but do not require a bed or to be admitted for overnight care.

Galway University Hospital had the highest outpatient waiting list with 48,406, followed by University Hospital Waterford with 46,165. Cork University Maternity Hospital had the lowest list with1,223.

Nationally, some 255,100 people on the outpatient list were waiting more than a year and, of those, 60 per cent were waiting 18 months or longer.

The NTPF also said 74,860 patients were waiting for an appointment for their inpatient or day case treatment, while 34,116 patients were waiting to receive an appointment for their GI Endoscopy.

In addition, the NTPF also publishes data on pre-admissions and planned procedures.

The pre-admit data shows that 20,888 people have been given a date for inpatient, daycase or endoscopy procedures while 87,104 patients are recorded in the planned procedure category with 62,535 of these patients having been given indicative dates in the future or a scheduled appointment.

These are patients who have already had treatment and require further treatment at a future date

A further 14,934 patients are classified as suspended, which refers to patients who are temporarily unfit or unable to attend due to clinical, personal or social reasons.

In total, 844,719 patients are now on some form of waiting list measured by the NTPF.

The increase in waiting lists has largely been attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced the cancellation of all non-urgent hospital work in March. Although activities have resumed across the health service, capacity is reduced to about 80 per cent or less due to the requirement for infection control.

Citing a further factor, Professor Alan Irvine, president of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said there was a “direct correlation” between record number of people waiting for outpatient appointments and “long-standing hospital consultant vacancies”.

“Month after month, waiting list records are getting worse yet we continue to fail to accept key flaws that are causing the problem. There is general acceptance that more consultants and more beds to care for patients is the solution,” he said.

“ While government has committed record funding levels in its recent Budget, until this money is channelled effectively and speedily to where it will make a difference for patients, we will continue to publish record waiting lists.”

Prof Irvine said the IHCA has sought meetings with Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and the HSE chief executive Paul Reid “to agree practical plans and workable solutions that will address the capacity deficits and in turn resolve the waiting lists and the impact of further Covid waves”.

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