Growth in surgical waiting times is leaving patients at risk, as failure to fill over 700 consultant posts remains unresolved
- 9,248 added to adult general surgery outpatient waiting list in 2020; 4,133 more waiting over a year to see a consultant since start of year, an increase of 152%;
- Paediatric surgery outpatient list has more than doubled since start of the year, with 2,107 more children waiting to see a hospital consultant;
- 2,419 (25%) additional patients waiting for inpatient/day case general surgery; 40% increase in paediatric surgery inpatient/day case waiting list since the start of the year;
- More than a fifth of all hospital consultant posts are now vacant or not filled as needed.
IHCA President Prof Alan Irvine: “Today’s NTPF waiting list figures again highlight the impact of hospital consultant shortages and capacity constraints on those waiting for an outpatient appointment and related surgery and treatment. Each statistic represents a person waiting for the care they desperately need, while potentially deteriorating clinically or living in pain.”
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has today (Friday 11 December 2020) renewed its call on Government to bring an end to record hospital waiting lists by filling the 728 permanent hospital consultant posts that are not filled as needed.
With 1 in 5 permanent consultant posts vacant or filled on a temporary, locum, or agency basis, Ireland’s acute hospitals are battling against the tide in trying to provide timely care to patients on increasingly unacceptable waiting lists.
The IHCA’s comments come after the latest figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) show significant increases in the number of adults and children on surgical inpatient waiting lists or awaiting an outpatient appointment with a surgeon.
- 9,248 people have been added to adult general surgery outpatient waiting list in 2020, an increase of 29%;
- 4,133 more people waiting longer than a year to see a consultant general surgeon – a 152% increase in 2020;
- 2,107 more children are waiting to see a paediatric surgeon on an outpatient basis, which is more than double (+114%) the number at the start of the year;
- 2,419 (25%) additional patients are waiting for inpatient/day case general surgery compared with the start of the year, with 2,879 now waiting longer than a year;
- There has been a 40% increase in the paediatric surgery inpatient/day case waiting list since the start of 2020.
These increases in surgical waiting lists come as new HSE data confirms that more than a fifth of all public consultant posts, 728 in total, are now vacant or unfilled on a permanent basis – with 17% of approved consultant surgeon posts (92 out of 548 approved posts) not filled as needed.
When analysed by sub-specialty, the latest NTPF figures show significant increases in 2020 in the outpatient waiting lists in:
- Breast surgery (46%, 1,597)
- General surgery (29%, +9,248)
- Cardiothoracic surgery (29%, +87)
- Maxillo-facial surgery (20%, + 951)
- Orthopaedics (19%, +12,175)
- Vascular surgery (17%, +1,987)
- Plastic surgery (10%, +1,520)
- Otolaryngology/ENT (7%, +4,163)
For those awaiting hospital treatment, there are also sizeable increases this year in the inpatient/day case waiting lists in:
- General surgery (25%, +2,419 patients)
- Breast surgery (23%, +20)
- Maxillo-facial surgery (22%, +136)
- Urology (21%, +1,661)
- Paediatric ENT (51%, +249)
- Paediatric orthopaedics (28%, +250)
- Paediatric urology (23%, +63)
The IHCA has called on the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly to engage with the Association to agree practical plans to address the unacceptable waiting lists and end the consultant recruitment and retention crisis to provide timely care to patients.
Commenting on today’s waiting lists, IHCA President Professor Alan Irvine, said:
“Today’s NTPF waiting list figures again highlight the impact of hospital consultant shortages and capacity constraints on those waiting for an outpatient appointment and related surgery. Each statistic represents a person waiting for the care they so desperately need, while potentially deteriorating clinically or in pain. Reducing these surgical waiting times will result in better outcomes for patients and better use of scarce hospital capacity.
“The continued failure of the Government since 2012 to address the hospital consultant recruitment and retention crisis and other capacity deficits is the root cause of the record 844,757 people now on some form of NTPF waiting list, an increase of 75,993 (10%) since the start of the year.
“A HSE report published earlier this year confirmed the number of consultants in hospital-based specialties will have to increase by more than half (53%) to address current shortfalls and meet increased patient demand to 2028. In surgery, an additional 213 consultant surgeons will be required – an increase of 31%. It remains to be seen how the HSE plans to fill the vacant and additional consultant positions. If it does not end the flawed 2012 New Entrant Consultant pay inequity, an increasing number of Consultant posts will be unfilled exacerbating the damaging impact on patients.
“While government has committed record funding levels for health in 2021, until this money is channelled effectively and speedily to where it will make a difference for patients, we will continue to see record waiting lists.”