Another sobering week for Irish healthcare with record waiting lists, resignations, and lack of meaningful solutions

By dara
Friday, 10th September 2021
  • Waiting Lists image iStock 1256719602 reduced907,617 people now on some form of public hospital waiting list in Ireland;
  • Number waiting for an outpatient appointment has increased by over 173,000 (36%) since May 2017, when Sláintecare reforms were launched;
  • Record number of people now waiting longer than 18 months for either an outpatient appointment (192,764) or hospital treatment (14,263);
  • Strong, consistent, and committed leadership needed at top levels of Government and HSE to steer Ireland’s health system away from crisis point; 
  • Consultant contract discussions critically important to filling the 1 in 5 vacant consultant posts and reducing waiting lists.

IHCA President Prof Alan Irvine: “Those of us who work in healthcare have proven that even in the most unprecedented of challenges, we can deliver solutions. It is now beyond time for those in leadership positions to do likewise.”

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has today (Friday, 10 September 2021) called for leadership among key Government and health officials in order to steer Ireland out of a hospital waiting list crisis, with continued record numbers of people now waiting for an appointment to be treated or assessed by a Consultant in public hospitals.

Following what Consultants say is ‘another sobering week in healthcare’ marred by record lists and resignations, they are urging the Department of Health and HSE to respond immediately by releasing the long-promised multi-annual waiting list reduction plan and providing realistic targets and timescales for the reduction of Ireland’s shocking waiting lists.

The latest National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) figures released today show there are over 907,600 people on some form of NTPF waiting list be treated or assessed by a Consultant, an increase of 66,167 people (8%) since this time last year and an increase of almost 124,000 (16%) since August 2019. The IHCA has warned that there will soon be over 1 million people on NTPF waiting lists.

With more than 200,000 people already waiting for diagnostic scans such as MRIs, CTs and ultrasounds and not on any NTPF list, public hospital waiting lists already well exceed a million people waiting for hospital treatment.

While the launch of Sláintecare in May 2017 set out significant reforms and plans to address timely access to care, analysis shows that waiting lists have continued to grow in the 4 years since. More worryingly, the IHCA says there has been a marked increase in the length of time people are waiting, with record numbers of ‘long-waiters’ now on a list for more than 18 months before being either assessed by a Consultant (192,764) or having inpatient or day case treatment (14,263). 

Waiting list increases since the launch of Sláintecare in May 2017:

Waiting list  Launch of Sláintecare (May 2017)  Current  Growth
Outpatients  478,569 652,344 (85,950 children) +173,775 (+36%)
Outpatients longer than a year 114,887 263,354 +148,467 (129%)
Outpatients longer than 18 months 49,961 192,764 +142,803 (+286% - almost a 4-fold increase)
Inpatients longer than a year  17,765 20,284 +2,519 (14%)
Inpatients longer than 18 months  6,132 14,263 +8,131 (133%)
Consultant vacancies 1 in5

The IHCA said that having over 907,000 people on waiting lists is an indicator that the immense backlog of care is dangerously close to overwhelming our public hospitals. This is due not only to the pandemic or cyber-attack on the HSE, they say, but is the result of persistent underinvestment in hospital infrastructure, bed capacity and Consultant recruitment over the past decade and more.

Commenting on today’s NTPF figures, IHCA President Professor Alan Irvine, said:

“It has been another sobering week in healthcare. Another record number of people on waiting lists for 18 months or longer and resignations instead of solutions. Those of us who work in healthcare have proven that even in the most unprecedented of challenges, we can deliver solutions. It is now beyond time for those in leadership positions to do likewise. Reform is a constant but when it is used as a mechanism to continually delay on taking immediate decisions which can have immediate patient impact, lists get longer, and good healthcare professionals leave the system. 

“Reducing the 907,617 people on some form of waiting list will take years to achieve, but that process needs to start without delay to arrest the almost out-of-control situation. There will be over 1 million people on NTPF waiting lists soon if we don’t have collaborative engagement with Consultants to fill the 1 in 5 permanent posts that are vacant and considering the expected hidden backlog of patients who are still yet to come forward for treatment following delays due to the pandemic.

“We heard from the Minister for Health earlier this week that a new waiting list reduction plan and Winter Plan are imminent. These plans need to be discussed with Consultants and the IHCA and published without delay. But that is only the first step in dealing with this crisis.

“There are talks taking place presently which can tackle waiting lists but only if there is the political will to take the obvious decisions to deal with the unprecedented backlog of care and by filling the one in five permanent hospital consultant posts that are currently vacant or filled on a temporary basis.”


Note to editors
NTPF waiting list data available:

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