Record numbers of patients are still waiting for appointments.
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has said that the record number of people on waiting lists for hospital appointments and procedures is leading to a significant deteriorating in patients’ health outcomes and pushing up health costs.
Dr Donal O’Hanlon, IHCA President, said that based on the latest National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) data a record 569,498 people were awaiting a hospital outpatient appointment at the end of August.
This is an increase of 4,669 in a month and by 53,336 (10.3%) since the start of 2019. This amounts to an average of 6,667 additional patients each month since the start of 2019.
The number waiting over 12 months for an outpatient appointment increased by 24,808 (16.2%) since the start of 2019.
In the past five years the numbers waiting have increased by 205,316 (56%). 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 discriminatory policy, which is driving the highly trained specialists abroad that public hospitals need.
The inpatients waiting are also unacceptable at 68,390, up 28% in 5 years.
Dr O’Hanlon said that Ireland is consistently singled out as having the worst waiting lists in Europe, and that this is not surprising as Ireland has the lowest number of medical specialists on a population basis in the EU, with half or less the EU average in many specialties.
Dr O’Hanlon added the outpatient waiting lists are also largest in those specialties with the greatest shortage of consultants or where vacant posts are more prevalent, such as in ENT, Orthopaedics, Dermatology, Ophthalmology, General Surgery or Urology.
The IHCA President said it is also unacceptable that there are currently 46,551 children across Ireland waiting to see a paediatrician for an outpatient appointment in the three Dublin hospitals that make up Children’s Health Ireland.
Dr Donal O’Hanlon, IHCA President “patients can experience a deterioration in physical functioning, vitality, social functioning, mental health and general health when waiting longer than three months for a procedure. Long waits also contribute to costs and inefficiencies because hospitals must use resources to administer waiting lists, reassess patients’ conditions after their long waits and provide more costly, complex care when patients are ultimately seen and treated after Emergency Department presentation.
“The consultant recruitment and retention crisis, with one in five permanent consultant posts now unfilled, is a key factor in the long wait times patients face and must be addressed by Government. To put an end to this crisis, Minister for Health, Simon Harris, must restore pay parity for new consultants to address the massive consultant recruitment and retention crisis and the resultant record waiting lists that are delaying the provision of care to patients.”