Any waiting list plan which does not address Consultant shortages will plan to fail, warns IHCA
- Record 910,000 people now on some form of public hospital waiting list;
- More than 1 million people predicted to be waiting for treatment by the end of the year;
- 98,190 children on NTPF waiting lists; 4 in 10 waiting longer than a year to be assessed by a Consultant;
- Almost 150-fold increase seen in the number of patients waiting over 12 months for hospital inpatient or day case treatment since 2012;
- Number waiting for an outpatient appointment with a Consultant has increased by over 41,000 in the past year alone and by almost 175,000 (37%) since May 2017, when Sláintecare reforms were launched;
- 261 people have been added to public hospital waiting lists every single day since the start of 2021 – almost 11 people added every hour, 24 hours a day;
- Ongoing Consultant contract discussions critically important to filling the 1 in 5 vacant consultant posts and reducing waiting lists
Prof Alan Irvine, President, IHCA: “The ongoing talks between the Department of Health, the HSE and hospital consultant representatives concerning employment contracts must deliver on the ‘unambiguous commitment’ made by the Minister for Health to resolve the pay inequity issue for all Consultants contracted since 2012. This issue is critical to filling the one in five permanent consultant posts that are currently vacant or filled on a temporary basis and reducing these unacceptable patient waiting times. If Government fails to develop a meaningful plan to fill the more than 720 permanent Consultant posts that remain vacant, its plan on reducing waiting lists will fail.”
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has today (Saturday, 16 October 2021) warned that any Government plans to address record waiting lists, where almost 1 million people wait for care, which do not simultaneously address the Consultant recruitment and retention crisis, are destined to fail.
The latest National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) figures released yesterday show that a record 909,915 people are on some form of NTPF waiting list to be treated or assessed by a Consultant, an increase of 71,240 people (8.5%) since the start of the year.
The IHCA has warned that given the Department of Health’s own prediction of a further 111,000 people due to be added to the Outpatient, Inpatient/Day Case and GI Endoscopy lists alone by year end, there will be well over 1 million people waiting for care by the end of 2021.
Consultants welcomed the additional €250 million provided in Budget 2022 to try to reduce waiting lists but say this is nowhere near enough for the massive task of clearing the continuing backlog of deferred hospital care due to the pandemic and bringing waiting lists under control. The ability for such investment to have meaningful impact will also be reduced if the consultant recruitment and retention crisis is not addressed in contract negotiations, as over one in five approved consultant posts are currently not filled as needed.
According to the latest waiting lists for the end of September, 261 people have been added to public hospital waiting lists every single day since the start of 2021 – that’s almost 11 people added every hour, 24 hours a day.
The number of patients waiting longer than a year for inpatient and day-case hospital treatment has grown dramatically since October 2012 when pay inequity was imposed on Consultants. It increased from just 131 at the end of September 2012 to 19,431 in September 2021 - a 148-fold increase in such ‘long waiters’ over the past nine years.
There are also 98,190 children on some form of NTPF waiting list to be treated or seen by a consultant. This includes 86,131 children on hospital outpatient waiting lists, with nearly half of these children (36,876 or 43%) waiting longer than a year for an outpatient appointment. When the 8,000 children awaiting CTs, MRIs or ultrasounds at the CHI children’s hospitals are added, the total number of children waiting for hospital treatment or diagnostics is over 106,000.
The IHCA has pinpointed the severe shortage of hospital consultants in our public health service and the number of vacant Consultant posts as the main contributors to the unacceptable delays in providing timely care.
Commenting on today’s NTPF figures, IHCA President Professor Alan Irvine, said:
“We heard the Taoiseach’s comments this week on the plight of the 10-year-old boy with scoliosis who is awaiting vital spinal surgery and agree that this reflects a systemic failure of a health service crippled by the twin deficits of a shortage of Consultants and a lack of sufficient hospital capacity.
“The Child Outpatient Waiting List increased by 3,886 in the past five months alone, when the NTPF first started to break down its outpatient data into separate child and adult list, and it shows no sign of slowing down. Our children - and their families - deserve much better.
“The ongoing talks between the Department of Health, the HSE and hospital consultant representatives concerning employment contracts must deliver on the ‘unambiguous commitment’ made by the Minister for Health to resolve the pay inequity issue for all Consultants contracted since 2012. This issue is critical to filling the one in five permanent consultant posts that are currently vacant or filled on a temporary basis and reducing these unacceptable patient waiting times. If Government fails to develop a meaningful plan to fill the more than 720 permanent Consultant posts that remain vacant, its plan on reducing waiting lists will fail.
“The Association welcomed the provision in this week’s Budget of an additional €1 billion for core health expenditure but must call out the inadequacy of the extra €250 million aimed at reducing waiting lists as nowhere near enough for the massive task ahead. The increased funding is only marginally more than the €210 million ‘Access to Care’ fund included in the 2021 Health Budget, less than half of which is expected to be actually spent by the end of the year, despite severe acute hospital capacity deficits.
“The money being promised by Government will never be enough to fund the care for all those who are currently waiting and who will be added over the coming winter months until the Consultant recruitment and retention crisis is finally addressed.
“Speaking at our Annual Conference last weekend, the Minister for Health said the issue of the pay inequity imposed unilaterally by the Government in 2012 could be considered within the framework of the contract talks. That commitment must be honoured by the management side in these negotiations.
“The Government must give its ‘unambiguous commitment’ to meaningfully tackle the Consultant recruitment problem and thereby halt the growth of record lists once and for all. Anything less will be a betrayal of not only children like Adam Terry but the one-fifth of the population currently on a waiting list to be assessed or treated by a Hospital Consultant.”