Number of patients on trolleys during summer at five-year high

Number of patients on trolleys during summer at five-year high

Data shows that following a dip in hospital trolley numbers in 2020, they began rising again in 2021.

There were more patients on trolleys waiting for a hospital bed in late summer this year than during any of the last five years, the Department of Health has said.

A report, 'Health in Ireland: Key Trends 2022', also showed that Covid-19 was the main cause of death for almost one in 10 of the people aged over 65 who passed away last year.

  • Covid-19 was the main cause of death for 5.2% of under-65s last year;
  • Non-respiratory cancers accounted for most deaths last year in young and older people; 
  • Dublin has the lowest fertility rate per county at 1.4 to 1.6 children and Leitrim the highest at 2.2 to 2.4;
  • The fertility rate in Cork is 1.6 to 1.8;
  • Life expectancy for women is 84 years and for men is 81;
  • Last year there were 58,443 births, down from a total of 71,674 in 2012;
  • 80% of Irish people reported good or very good health, the highest in the EU;
  • Fewer transplants were carried out in 2020 and 2021 per million of population than in any year going back to 2012.

The hospital data shows that following a dip in trolley numbers in 2020, these began rising again in 2021.

“These numbers have since been surpassed in 2022, continuing the upward trend, and remain higher than any of the previous five years for late summer/early autumn time,” the review says.

The knock-on effect of overcrowding is reflected in how long people wait for an ambulance, with just 54% of some calls regarding life-threatening conditions (Delta level) responded to in the target time, on average.

Ambulances in the South region responded to just over half of Delta calls in the target time of 18 minutes, 59 seconds.

This region had the lowest percentage of calls for a life-threatening cardiac or respiratory arrest (Echo level) responded to inside the target time, at just over 70% compared to the national average of 79.5%.

Despite the growing pressures, patient satisfaction levels with hospitals changed little between 2017 and 2021. 

Between 54% and 56% reported very good experiences, between 28% and 30% good experiences, and 16% to 17% reported fair to poor experiences.

Mental health

The report also focuses on mental health, provisionally showing 399 deaths by suicide last year and 465 in 2020.

The numbers of people admitted to psychiatric hospitals to stay overnight dropped to 15,391 in 2020 from around 17,000 in each of the three previous years.

The overall population is now expected to reach 5.77m by 2042, with increases across all age groups and regions. 

The proportion of over-65s has increased by 35% since 2013, compared to the EU average increase of 17.3%.

The total fertility rate has continued to decrease and is now at its lowest in the last decade.

Meanwhile, separate data for November analysed by the Irish Patients' Association (IPA) using the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation trolley-watch, shows patients in some hospitals experience longer waits than others.

“Cork University Hospital had a massive 83.7% increase of patients on trolleys in this month vs November 21,” the IPA found.

However, the Mercy Hospital and University Hospital Kerry had fewer people on trolleys this November.

Stephen McMahon of the IPA called for these differences to be investigated urgently, warning of a “significant deterioration” across most hospitals around the country. 

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