More pain for patients on waiting lists as Government action plan set to significantly miss end of year targets

By dara
Friday, 14th July 2023

Mid-point of Action Plan shows increases in waiting lists, as new data reveals worsening Hospital Consultant staffing crisis – IHCA

  • Waiting Lists image iStock 1256719602 reduced890,800 people on some form of public hospital waiting list; up more than 20,700 this year and by an additional 307,000 people since Sláintecare;
  • 17,165 added to three main waiting lists in the first half of 2023, missing Government reduction target by 51,650;
  • €443m Waiting List Action Plan unlikely to meet target of reducing waiting lists by 69,000 (10%) by end of 2023;  
  • Number of unfilled Consultant posts rises to 933 – a 28% increase (+206) in vacant or temporary filled posts in just two years;
  • Urgent action needed to address public hospital capacity deficits and Consultant vacancies, say Consultants.
  • IHCA President Prof Robert Landers: “The 2023 Waiting List Action Plan has reached its halfway point but is nowhere near achieving the reduction targets set for the end of the year. The Government needs to urgently increase public hospital capacity to treat the increasing number of patients on waiting lists.”

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has today (Friday 14 July 2023) warned that inaction by the Government to urgently address the root causes of hospital capacity deficits and Consultant shortages will mean the targets set out in its Waiting List Action Plan for 2023 will not be achieved. 

The latest figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) released today show significant increases in the number of people waiting for care at the midpoint of the Government’s Action Plan. 

The €443 million plan set out to reduce waiting lists for outpatient, inpatient and day case appointments by 10% or 69,000 by the end of the year, compared with the number waiting at the start of 2023.1 However, six months into 2023 and instead of an expected reduction of around 34,500 people, the latest NTPF figures confirm that 17,165 additional people have in fact been added to these three main waiting lists – a 51,650 shortfall.2 

The IHCA says that outpatient appointments have seen the largest increases in the number of people waiting – a further 13,600 people added in first six months of 2023, instead of the pro rata target reduction of over 32,000 expected at the halfway point of the Action Plan. 

Consultants are increasingly struggling to provide care to public hospital patients and are particularly concerned that there are now 890,800 people on some form of hospital waiting list, an increase of over 20,700 (2%) this year alone. 

Record 933 Consultant posts unfilled

The waiting list increases come as separate figures from the HSE show that a record 933 Consultant posts remain unfilled or filled on a temporary, locum or agency basis.3 This is an increase of 206 approved Consultant posts, or an additional 28%, not filled as needed compared with this time two years ago.4

Analysis by the IHCA reveals that the increase in the number of unfilled Consultant posts over the past two years is as follows:

Consultant Posts  May 2021 June 2023 Difference
Vacant Posts  331 480 +149 (+45%)
Temporary/Locum 295 356  +61 (+21%)
Agency Filled  77 68 -9 (-12%)
Unknown Status (likely vacant) 24 29  +5 (21%)
Total not filled as needed 727   933 +206 (+28%)

Commenting on today’s NTPF figures and Consultant vacancies, IHCA President Professor Robert Landers, said:  “As set out in our Pre-Budget Submission launched this week, it is clear that the Government must commit the estimated €4 billion in capital funding needed to build and open essential hospital improvements already announced by the Minister for Health.

“The NTPF figures released today confirm our fears that without addressing the very obvious shortages of Consultants, hospital beds, theatres, diagnostic and other facilities the Government will not address the core problems facing our public hospitals. 

“The fact that so many Consultant posts remain vacant should be an unequivocal signal to Government and Health Service Management that the current conditions in our public hospitals do not create an environment in which skilled medical and surgical specialists want to work and which is driving our trained specialists abroad to pursue their careers.”


Notes to editors: 
1. The 2023 Waiting List Action Plan allocates €363m to reducing hospital waiting lists and an additional €80m for various community and primary care waiting list initiatives:  
2. Analysis based on latest NTFP data as at end of June 2023:
3. HSE PQ response to Deputy David Cullinane, 23 June 2023: 
4. HSE PQ response to Deputy David Cullinane, 16 September 2021:

Media Contacts: 
Lauren Murphy | | +353 (0)83 801 5917

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