Government target to reduce waiting lists by 36,600 by year end will not be met, warns IHCA
- Instead of reduction of 18,300 people on waiting lists by end of October, numbers have reduced by 10,700 since August – a 7,600 shortfall;
- 904,000 people still on some form of public hospital waiting list; 97,400 of these are children;
- 70-fold increase seen in the number of patients waiting over 12 months for hospital inpatient or day case treatment since 2012;
- 217 people have been added to public hospital waiting lists every single day since the start of 2021 – that’s 9 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.
IHCA President Prof Alan Irvine: “The four-month waiting list action plan published by the Department of Health and HSE in October was never ambitious enough, given the fact that we have nearly 1 million people waiting for care. Unfortunately, the plan’s modest targets are now unlikely to be met by year end. Any medium-term Government plan to address the record waiting lists which does not simultaneously address the Consultant recruitment and retention crisis is destined to fail.”
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has today (Friday, 12 November 2021) warned that the target set by the Department of Health and HSE to reduce hospital waiting lists by 36,600 before the end of the year is highly unlikely to be met.
The latest National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) figures released today show that 904,052 people are on some form of NTPF waiting list to be treated or assessed by a Consultant, an increase of 65,377 people (8%) since the start of the year.* This includes 644,458 people awaiting an outpatient appointment, 74,662 patients waiting for inpatient or day case treatment and a further 30,893 awaiting a gastrointestinal (GI) scope. In addition, 154,039 people are on various lists for planned procedures, pre-admissions or suspensions - the highest level these waiting lists have ever been.
The Department of Health’s Acute Waiting List Action Plan for September to December 2021** promised to reduce the combined outpatient, inpatient/day case and GI endoscopy waiting lists by around 36,600 over the four months to the end of the year through a series of measures, including increased public hospital capacity, additional commissioned activity in private hospitals and the ‘validation’ or removal of patients from waiting lists.
The Department predicted that without specific action, a further 111,000 patients would be added to waiting lists by the end of December, due to an increase in presentations for hospital care.
However, if the HSE delivered a reduction in these waiting lists, as outlined in the action plan, a projected overall reduction of 36,600 in the total number waiting for care compared with August should have been achievable by year end.
At the midpoint of the plan, instead of an expected pro rata equivalent reduction in waiting list of around 18,300 people, the number of those waiting to be assessed or treated by a Hospital Consultant has only decreased by 10,700 since August - a 7,600 shortfall.
With the recent increases in Covid cases, significant overcrowding in our Emergency Departments and widespread cancellation of operations and outpatient appointments throughout the country, there is little prospect of the Department’s waiting list reduction plan succeeding.
The latest NTPF figures for the end of October show that 217 people have been added to public hospital waiting lists every single day since the start of 2021 – that’s 9 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, from just 268 at the end of October 2012 to 18,776 in October 2021 - a 70-foldTBC increase in such ‘long waiters’ over the past nine years.
There are also 97,424 children on some form of NTPF waiting list to be treated or seen by a consultant.
Commenting on today’s NTPF figures, IHCA President Professor Alan Irvine, said:
“The four-month waiting list action plan published by the Department of Health and HSE in October was never ambitious enough, given the fact that we have nearly 1 million people waiting for care. Unfortunately, the plan’s modest targets are now unlikely to be met by year end.
“These unacceptable waiting lists are expected to get worse in the coming weeks, due to continuing increases in demand for care in our public hospitals. The early winter surge has already seen the widespread cancellation of operations and outpatient appointments across our public hospitals, and this continued pressure on the health service will only store up greater problems for 2022 and beyond.
“Any medium-term Government plan to address the record waiting lists which does not simultaneously address the Consultant recruitment and retention crisis is destined to fail. Our patients deserve plans from Government that are practical and will deliver the care they need.
“It is essential that the ongoing Consultant contract discussions deliver on the ‘unambiguous commitment’ made by the Minister for Health to resolve the pay inequity issue for all Consultants contracted since 2012. This is crucial if we are to restore trust in the system and attract and recruit the highly trained specialists needed to fill the one in five permanent hospital consultant posts across the country that are either vacant or filled on a temporary basis.”
* Analysis based on latest NTFP data: https://www.ntpf.ie/home/nwld.htm
** The Department of Health’s ‘Acute Waiting List Action Plan, September - December 2021’ is available at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c37dd-the-waiting-list-action-plan/