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Resources should be in line with increased demand

By Paul Mulholland - 17th Dec 2023

waiting lsits

The latest monthly update from the Department of Health on waiting lists follows what is becoming a familiar narrative. More patients are being seen. However, higher than expected demand is hampering progress in reducing waiting lists.

At the end of November, the total waiting list exceeding the 10/12-week Sláintecare targets was 463,921. This is a 10 per cent reduction compared to February 2023.

However, the total waiting list is approximately 7.1 per cent behind the 2023 Waiting List Action Plan target. The reason is additions to waiting lists were approximately 6.8 per cent higher than projected.

Does this call into question how the health service estimates demand? The IHCA thinks so.

“Despite treating significantly more patients than planned, waiting lists have remained at a virtual standstill, due to a higher-than-expected level of patient demand,” the Association said in a statement.

“The inability to accurately forecast this additional demand has contributed to the recently announced €1 billion supplementary budget for health in 2023.”

Consultants are calling on the Government to urgently implement plans promised by the Minister for Health to put in place 1,500 additional rapid build acute hospital beds and four elective hospitals to address lengthening waiting lists. The IHCA also says the intention to establish surgical hubs nationally should also be expediated.

“A significant €407 million has been allocated for next year’s Waiting List Action Plan, which is currently being finalised,” according to the Association’s President Prof Robert Landers.

“However, there is nothing to suggest we won’t be in the same position come December 2024, looking back at another year of wasted opportunities.”

In terms of emergency departments, progress is also difficult to see.

A total of 11,289 patients waited on trolleys in hospitals in January, according to figures compiled by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation. Last month the figure was 11,493.

While the financial difficulties of the health service are well known and have led to the widely criticised recruitment embargo, without resources in line with the high demand, 2024 will not be any better for patients or healthcare workers. However, in the spirit of the season, we can hope the situation improves over the next 12 months.

And as this is the last issue of the Medical Independent for 2023, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our readers.

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