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Consultants question claim that Waiting List Action Plan is ‘ahead of target’

By Reporter - 15th Sep 2023

Prof Robert Landers

The IHCA has today (Friday, 15 September 2023) questioned claims by the Department of Health that the Government’s Waiting List Action Plan is running ‘ahead of target’.

It follows the release of the latest National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) waiting list figures.

According to a release from the Department of Health, activity under the Waiting List Action Plan continues to run ahead of target at the end of August.

The figures also show, however, that there have been significantly higher additions to waiting lists than projected.

The figures confirm that 896,700 people were on some form of hospital waiting list at the end of August.

The €443 million Action Plan set a target to reduce waiting lists for outpatient appointments and inpatient and day case treatment by 10 per cent (-69,000) by the end of the year, compared with the number waiting at the start of 2023.

However, eight months into 2023, instead of an expected reduction of around 45,500 people, the IHCA point out the latest NTPF figures confirm that almost 18,200 additional people have in fact been added to these three main waiting lists.

While the IHCA admit the number of patients treated or removed from the waiting lists may be above target, it highlights how additions to waiting lists in the same period “have been much higher than projected”. This means there has been no net reduction so far this year, with waiting lists increasing by around 3 per cent since January.

Despite separate data confirming 49,500 patients were removed from hospital waiting lists without any treatment in the first six months of 2023 through NTPF ‘validation’, the Government is still significantly behind the 10 per cent reduction target contained in its Action Plan, according to the IHCA.

The Association, which holds its Annual Conference in Dublin later this month, welcomed the reductions achieved since this time last year.

However, it pointed out that August 2022 had the highest ever number of people on NTPF waiting lists – a total of 910,073.

Commenting on today’s waiting lists, IHCA President Prof Robert Landers, said:

“The stark reality is that there are over 896,000 people on some form of NTPF waiting list, which is up more than 26,600 (3 per cent) this year alone. When the additional 250,000 waiting for essential hospital diagnostic scans are included, the number of people awaiting hospital care is over 1.1 million – or one-fifth of the population.

“While it is important to know how many people are waiting longer than the Sláintecare maximum wait times, and we welcome any small gains in these wait times, it is equally important to acknowledge that waiting lists have significantly deteriorated rather than improved since the Sláintecare report’s publication in May 2017. In fact, the number of people on NTPF waiting list has increased by over 313,000 (+54%) since Sláintecare.

“This is why the IHCA is urging the Government to commit the estimated €4 billion in capital funding in October’s Budget to build and open essential additional hospital beds, theatres, diagnostics and other facilities already announced by the Minister for Health in order to cut waiting lists.

“The Government also needs to address the very obvious shortages of consultants in our public hospitals, given that a record 933 permanent consultant posts are vacant or filled on a temporary basis, and the fact that Ireland continues to have the lowest number of medical specialists on a population basis in Europe.”

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