Urgent action must be taken to achieve a major reduction in public hospital waiting lists, patient advocate, Stephen McMahon, has said.
Mr McMahon, who is chairman and co-founder of the Irish Patients Association, said he was “gravely concerned” that a significant reduction had not been achieved during the year.
According to the latest waiting list data published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund there 766,604 patients on waiting lists. The number of waiters had increased by 62,624 since last December.
At the end of last month, 567,221 patients were waiting for a first hospital outpatient consultation.
“The number of patients waiting for their first outpatient appointment has reduced by 1,548 compared to the previous month but it is still 51,059 up on what it was at the start of the year,” said Mr McMahon, who pointed out that 13,000 patients had already been taken out of the outpatient list through a validation process.
Of the 67,511 patients waiting for an appointment for their inpatient or day-case treatment, 10,262 were waiting 12 months or more.
Mr McMahon said there had only been a minimal reduction in the numbers waiting — a month on month reduction of 474 and a 2,693 decrease compared to last December. However, the decrease was merely reflecting the 3,000 waiters removed from the waiting list after a validation process.
“I would have thought that by now, coming to the end of the year, we would have seen significant improvements in both elective surgeries and treatment and outpatient lists but we are not seeing that.”
Mr McMahon said he was very concerned because the ongoing trolley crisis would only impact further on waiting lists.
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association said the HSE’s Winter Plan that has €26m in additional funding to alleviate some of the pressure on public hospitals was “too little too late” to make a real impact on waiting lists.
“The numbers waiting to see a hospital consultant continue to grow by an average of over 5,100 additional people each month since the start of the year,” said IHCA president, Dr Donal O’Hanlon.
The IHCA said the waiting list figures confirmed that the health service did not have enough hospital consultants and there was insufficient capacity to cope with demand.