Routine hospital services ‘under threat’ over strain new waiting list figures putting on system

Irish hospitals may soon be unable to guarantee “routine” services as a basic right to patients due to the severe strain record-breaking new waiting list figures are putting on the system.

Health Minister Simon Harris was warned of the dire situation after it emerged that a historic 686,999 patients were forced to wait for vital care at the end of last month — up 150,000 in just a year and 9,500 since June alone.

New figures revealed by the independent National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) show that at the end of July a massive one in every seven people in the country were on some form of waiting list.

And while Mr Harris last night announced plans for an emergency meeting with the HSE and NTPF next week over the crisis, Fianna Fáil warned the situation means “routine” services can no longer be guaranteed.

According to the NTPF figures, at the end of July, 686,999 people were on some form of hospital waiting list in Ireland, a rate that is the highest ever recorded.

The figure — which is based on 493,780 outpatient delays, 86,111 people waiting for inpatient or day case treatment, 88,446 people due to be seen in the next six weeks and 18,662 patients waiting for gastro-intestinal treatment — includes:

  • 10,386 people waiting for surgery, of whom 1,522 are waiting more than a year and 522 will not be treated for 18 months;
  • 4,631 people waiting for cardiology treatment, of whom 824 are waiting more than a year and 172 will not be treated for 18 months;
  • 4,319 people waiting for pain relief, of whom 632 are waiting more than a year and 86 will not be treated for 18 months;
  • 11,678 people waiting for orthopaedic care, of whom 2,010 are waiting more than a year and 654 will not be treated for 18 months.

Some 5,386 children are waiting at Temple Street, Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin and Tallaght Children’s Hospital; 13,119 people in Munster hospitals; 6,111 at Beaumont; and 12,065 at Galway University Hospital.

Mr Harris last night insisted the situation is under control and he remains committed to increasing staff and capacity levels.

Simon Haris
Simon Haris

However, Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said that unless drastic changes occur immediately, hospitals will soon be unable to provide anything other than basic and emergency care.

“We now have a very real scenario that non-acute procedures will not be able to be guaranteed by the State in a timely manner,” he said.

“This is a scandalous situation. Unless the Government urgently increases capacity, routine, non-acute procedures and diagnostics will no longer be guaranteed as a right to citizens.”

Former junior health minister Róisín Shortall said the “shocking” record-breaking figures represent a “huge failing on the part of Government”. She said while providing a “decent health service where people can get timely treatment is a basic requirement of any civilised country”, the situation in Ireland is “getting progressively worse by the month”.

Admitting “it is very disappointing this month’s figures have not shown an overall improvement” in waiting lists, a spokesperson for Mr Harris said Government remains committed to addressing the issue and will hold an “emergency” meeting with the NTPF and HSE on the issue next week.

A HSE spokesperson said its outpatient waiting list action plan is focused on cutting the number of patients waiting 15 months or more by 95,000 by October, with this category down by 63,700 by the end of last month.


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