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Waiting lists continue to exceed Sláintecare targets

By Reporter - 12th May 2023

New hospital waiting list figures published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) show that, as at the end of April, 492,639 people on the active waiting lists (inpatient / day case, GI Scopes and outpatients) are waiting longer than the Sláintecare maximum wait times.

This is a 0.3 per cent increase in comparison to the end of March. 

The 2017 Sláintecare report recommended maximum wait times of no more than 12 weeks for an inpatient / day case (IPDC) procedure or GI Scope and 10 weeks for a new outpatient (OPD) appointment.

As at the end of April 2023:

  • 51,822 people are currently exceeding the 12-week IPDC target, which is approximately the same as the end of March.
  • 10,720 people are exceeding the 12-week GI Scope target, which is a 3 per cent increase compared to the end of March.
  • 430,097 people are exceeding the 10-week OPD target, which is approximately the same as the end of March.

Additions to waiting lists in the year to date have been higher than projected. The HSE attributes this trend to a number of drivers, including post-pandemic pent-up demand, and highlight it is also the case internationally (e.g., the NHS in Britain is seeing higher additions compared to previous years).

According to the most recently available 12 months of data, there were 3.4 million outpatient and 1.7 million inpatient / day case attendances. In addition to this scheduled care, the hospital system also treated 1.6 million patients during this same period in emergency, unscheduled, care.

This represents a 10 per cent increase on 2019 (pre-pandemic) levels and reflects the ongoing pressure on hospitals from flu surges and increased emergency department attendances.

Such pressures have had a 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 of Health.

“However, there are many examples of individual hospitals delivering significant improvements in waiting times despite such challenges,” the Department states.

“For example, over the past year, University Hospital Limerick has reduced the number of patients waiting over 18 months for an OPD appointment by 81 per cet, from 17,883 to 3,465 and Our Lady’s Hospital Navan has reduced the number of patients waiting over 18 months for an OPD appointment by 66 per cent, from 2,458 to 849. At the same time, Tallaght University Hospital has reduced the number of patients waiting over 12 months for an IPDC procedure by 35 per cent, from 419 to 271.

The publication of April waiting list and activity figures by the NTPF and HSE follows the launch of the 2023 Waiting List Action Plan on 7 March. The 2023 plan continues the multi-annual approach to addressing waiting lists that commenced at the end of 2021.

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