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Vital that waiting list action plans continue to be supported

By Paul Mulholland - 23rd Jul 2023

waiting list action plan

Recent hospital waiting list figures for June, published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF), showed that targeted activity under

The Waiting List Action Plan 2023 was running ahead of schedule. However, much work remains to reduce waiting lists to acceptable levels.

According to the NTPF figures, 490,689 people on the active waiting lists were waiting longer than the Sláintecare maximum wait times. This was a 1.2 per cent decrease in comparison to the end of May.

At the end of June, 52,004 people were exceeding the 12-week inpatient/day case (IPDC) target, which was a slight increase compared to the previous month. A total of 10,611 people were exceeding the 12-week GI scope target, a marginal increase compared to the May figure. Finally, 428,074 people were in excess of the 10-week outpatient (OPD) target, a 1 per cent decrease.

The figures also show that there have been “significantly higher additions” to waiting lists than project- ed. The total number of patients re- moved from the IPDC, GI scope, and OPD waiting lists during the first five months of 2023 was approximately 28,000 (4 per cent) higher than target. However, additions to waiting lists in the same period were 52,000 (8 per cent) higher than projected. Additions to waiting lists are also 79,000 (13 per cent) higher than in the same period in 2022.

In a statement, the Department of Health said this trend has been experienced in health services across Europe.

The HSE attributes higher than anticipated additions to waiting lists to several factors, including the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the most recently available 12 months of data in the HSE’s hospital activity reports, there were 3.4 million outpatient and 1.7

million IPDC attendances. In addition, hospitals treated 1.6 million patients who required emergency care during the same period. This represents a 10 per cent increase on 2019. According to the Department statement, the trend reflects the ongoing pressure on hospitals and increased emergency department attendances, particularly among older people.

“Such pressures have had the expected knock-on impact on scheduled care in many of our hospitals in the first months of this year, which has resulted in some waiting lists temporarily increasing,” according to the Department.

It referred to how some hospitals, including Roscommon University Hospital and Children’s Health Ire- land at Crumlin, were delivering improvements in waiting times despite such challenges.

The waiting list action plan process is the latest official recognition that waiting times for healthcare in Ire- land are far too long. The multi-annual approach was adopted in September 2021 and sets ongoing priorities to address the current intolerable situation faced by patients. Funding has also been made available – €443 million was allocated in Budget 2023 for the area.

It is imperative that the progress cit- ed by the Minister for Health achieved by this process continues and accelerates. It is also vital that short-term initiatives are aligned with longer-term planning to address the severe capacity deficiencies across the health sector.

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