Hospitals treat 6.7 million patients in 12 months

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Hospital waiting list figures published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) showed that, as at the end of April, 492,639 people on the Active Waiting Lists (inpatient / day case, GI Scopes and outpatients) were waiting longer than the Sláintecare maximum wait times, which was a 0.3% increase in comparison to the end of March.  

The 2017 Houses of the Oireachtas Sláintecare report recommended maximum wait times of no more than 12 weeks for an inpatient / day case (IPDC) procedure or GI Scope and 10 weeks for a new outpatient (OPD) appointment.

The Department of Health said that as at the end of April 2023:

  • 51,822 people were currently exceeding the 12-week IPDC target which was approximately the same as the end of March.
  • 10,720 people were exceeding the 12-week GI Scope target which was a 3% increase compared to the end of March.
  • 430,097 people were exceeding the 10-week OPD target, which was approximately the same as the end of March.

The Department said additions to waiting lists in the year to date had been higher than projected. “The Health Service Executive (HSE) attributes this trend to a number of drivers, including post-pandemic pent-up demand, and highlight it is also the case internationally e.g., the NHS in Britain is seeing higher additions compared to previous years.

“For the most recently available 12 months of data, there were 3.4 million outpatient and 1.7 million in-patient/day case attendances. In addition to this planned (‘scheduled’) care, our hospital system also treated 1.6 million patients during this same period in emergency (‘unscheduled’) care, which represents a 10% increase on 2019 (pre-pandemic) levels and reflects the ongoing pressure on hospitals from flu surges and increased Emergency Department attendances.

“Such pressures have had the expected knock-on impact on scheduled care in many of our hospitals in the first months of this year, which has resulted in some waiting lists temporarily increasing. However, there are many examples of individual hospitals delivering significant improvements in waiting times despite such challenges.

“For example, over the past year, University Hospital Limerick has reduced the number of patients waiting over 18 months for an OPD appointment by 81%, from 17,883 to 3,465 and Our Lady’s Hospital Navan has reduced the number of patients waiting over 18 months for an OPD appointment by 66%, from 2,458 to 849. At the same time, Tallaght University Hospital has reduced the number of patients waiting over 12 months for an IPDC procedure by 35%, from 419 to 271.

“The publication of April waiting list and activity figures by the NTPF and HSE follows the launch of the 2023 Waiting List Action Plan on 7 March by the Minister for Health. The 2023 Plan continues the multi-annual approach to addressing waiting lists that commenced in Q4 2021 and details 30 actions focused on delivering capacity, reforming scheduled care, and enabling scheduled care reform. The 2023 Plan will fund the HSE and NTPF to reduce waiting lists by a further 10% this year as well as continuing to significantly reduce waiting times towards the Sláintecare recommended targets.”