Numbers on hospital waiting lists soar 968%

Government attempts to halt the slippage in patient waiting times have failed spectacularly, with latest figures showing a massive 968% increase in the numbers waiting more than nine months for hospital treatment.

A National Treatment Purchase Fund analysis shows the number of patients waiting more than nine months for inpatient or day case hospital treatment has soared from 510 in January to 5,448 in July.

This is despite former health minister James Reilly issuing a warning in February to HSE boss Tony O’Brien that no public patient in need of surgery should endure a delay of more than eight months from last June.

The chaotic state of our waiting lists has been highlighted by Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher, who said they “reveal the extent to which the Government has been misleading people about what is happening within our health services”.

Mr Kelleher said NTPF figures to the end of July show more than 360,753 people on an outpatient list, up from 309,496 in January. Almost 38,000 of these patients have been waiting more than 12 months for an appointment, up from 9,604 in January. This latter figure is at odds with the figure of 5,000 patients waiting more than a year for an appointment which Mr Reilly claimed to be the case in a radio interview last January.

Mr Kelleher said, despite “the Government spin that waiting times are falling”, the latest figures “outline a very different reality”.

Meanwhile, a HSE performance assessment report for July shows growing waiting lists for scheduled surgery, a trend “expected to continue to year end” and growing numbers of delayed discharges — currently almost 700 — further reducing in-patient capacity for winter months.

The HSE is predicting a budget deficit of €510m by year-end. The cost of agency staff in acute hospitals continues to hurt. The figure to end of July was €132.2m compared to €86m for the same period last year. The HSE said this primarily reflected price increases for agency provision rather than an increase in medical staff.

Health minister Leo Varadkar said the health service “remains under immense pressure” and that he would continue to engage with the HSE and Department of Public Expenditure “with a view to putting in place a budget and service plan for 2015 which will stabilise the health service”.

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