Progress on waiting list reductions

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Hospital waiting lists published  by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) in November demonstrated progress made on waiting list reduction across OPD, IPDC and GI Scope waiting lists and Sláintecare target waiting times in October, the Department of Health said.

“The total number of patients treated/removed from the OPD, IPDC and GI Scope waiting lists during the first ten months of the year was c.3.2% (c.44,000) higher than target and c.11.1% (142,000) more than in the same period last year.

“However, against the 2023 WLAP, the total waiting list position is c.7.7% (c.49,000 behind target, as a result of additions being c.7% (93,000) higher than projected. Additions YTD are c.11.5% (147,000) higher than the same period in 2022 and c.19% (227,000) higher than the same period in 2019 (which was pre-pandemic).

“We now have 476,451 people on the Active Waiting Lists (inpatient/day case, GI Scopes and outpatients) waiting longer than the Sláintecare maximum wait times.

“As at the end of October 2023:

  •  48,881 people are currently exceeding the 12-week inpatient/day case (IPDC) target which is a c.2.5% decrease compared to the end of September.
  •  9,398 people are exceeding the 12-week GI Scope target which is an c.4.5% decrease compared to the end of September.
  • 418,172 people are exceeding the 10-week outpatient (OPD) target, which is a c.3.2% decrease compared to the end of September.

“This progress is even more remarkable given the challenging backdrop, in common with health services across Europe, of continuing significantly higher additions to waiting lists than projected.

The HSE and other health services attribute higher than anticipated additions to waiting lists to several factors, including post-pandemic pent-up demand.

The NTPF also announcws the launch of its new “Enhanced Reporting” waiting list dashboard inNovember.. “This new dashboard will be published on the NTPF website  and will enable patients and professionals to gain a better insight into the NTPF’s National Public Hospital Waiting lists. The new enhanced reporting system will provide trends over time as well as a more interactive experience for all patients and professionals. Enhanced Reporting will improve the accessibility and usability of the existing website reports which provide information on the waiting times and availability of hospital services across the country.It will demonstrate improvements such as reductions in long waiters through user-friendly graphics.”

Welcoming the development, Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly said, “I have been driving such improvements in transparency and this new enhanced reporting of waiting lists is to be welcomed, and will empower patients, with their treating clinician, to make informed decisions about their care.”

The Department said the Enhanced Reporting launch was the start of a larger project for Best Practice Reporting (BPR), which would provide waiting time information in addition to existing waiting list information for IDPP, OP and Radiology Diagnostics. BPR would provide access to meaningful wait time information for patients and would assist in maximising resources to ensure effective management of waiting time and waiting list information.

“The health service is treating significantly more patients. For the most recently available 12 months of data, there were 3.6 million outpatient and c.1.8 million inpatient/day case attendances. In addition to this scheduled care, our hospital system also treated c.1.7 million patients during this same period in emergency care, which represents an 11% increase on 2019 (pre-pandemic) levels and reflects the ongoing pressure on hospitals and increased Emergency Department (ED) attendances, particularly amongst older people.

Such pressures have had the expected knock-on impact on scheduled care in many of our hospitals in the first half 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, in the last year, Naas General Hospital has reduced the number of patients waiting over 15 months for an OPD appointment by 55% in the last year, from 1,366 to 618, Mayo University Hospital has reduced the number of patients waiting over 9 months for an IPDC procedure by 78% in the last year, from 336 to 75 and Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown has reduced the number of patients waiting over 13 weeks for colonoscopy or OGD procedures by 90% in the last year, from 540 to 55.

“The funding allocated from Budget 2024, €407 million, will facilitate the next steps in the multi-annual approach towards achieving the vision of a world-class public healthcare system in which everyone has timely and transparent access to high-quality scheduled care, where and when they need it, in line with Sláintecare reforms.”