Over 288,500 people in Dublin face longer waits for care this winter as Government’s waiting lists plan fails to deliver in capital’s hospitals
- Almost a quarter of a million people on outpatient waiting lists at Dublin hospitals (243,255); an increase of 9,500 people this year alone;
- Number of patients waiting longer than a year for hospital treatment has increased by 18% since 2015, with a massive 3-fold increase in children waiting longer than 12 months for care;
- Consultant vacancies in Dublin’s acute hospital and mental health services now account for a third of all Consultant posts unfilled on permanent basis nationally.
IHCA President Prof Robert Landers: “Our health service, hospital management and medical teams in the capital need to fill the almost 300 vacant permanent Consultant posts across Dublin’s acute hospital and mental health services and significantly increase hospital capacity, ahead of yet another challenging autumn and winter for patients in desperate need of timely care.”
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has today (24 October 2022) warned that the ongoing shortage of hospital Consultants across a large number of specialties in Dublin’s acute hospital and mental health services1 is restricting patients from accessing timely, high-quality medical and surgical care and is contributing massively to growing waiting lists in the region.
A total of 243,255 people are currently awaiting an outpatient appointment with a Consultant at hospitals across the capital, an increase of more than 88,000 (+57%) since 2015 and an additional 9,500 people added this year alone.2
More than 35,500 patients are waiting for inpatient or day case treatment at Dublin hospitals, which is 45% of the national figure of 79,363 at the end of September. Of these, more than 6,100 are waiting more than 12 months for treatment – an 18% increase since 2015. The number of children waiting longer than a year for treatment at the three Dublin paediatric hospitals has jumped three-fold in the past seven years to 1,340.
A further 9,800 people are currently awaiting a gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy, which brings the total number of people in Dublin awaiting hospital treatment or assessment by a Consultant to over 288,500.
The IHCA says the scale of the waiting list increases across the Dublin region are a direct result of the escalating Consultant recruitment and retention crisis – which now sees 294 out of a total of 1,863 approved Consultant posts vacant or filled on a temporary basis (as at May 2022).3
The increase in waiting lists and times comes despite the Government’s €350 million Waiting List Action Plan, which has set a target to reduce waiting lists for outpatients, inpatients and day case treatment, and GI (gastrointestinal) scopes by 18% by the end of the year.4
New analysis from the IHCA shows that the Dublin hospitals experiencing the greatest growth in their outpatient waiting lists so far in 2022 are:
|Hospital||Outpatients end December 2021||Outpatients end September 2022||Change|
|National Orthopaedic Hospital Cappagh||2,662||3,945||+48%|
|St Columcille’s Hospital||6,029||8,006||+33%|
|Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital||2,785||3,209||+15%|
In fact, just five hospitals in the capital have recorded any reduction in their outpatients waiting lists in 2022, but these are still significantly short of the Government’s 18% reduction target: Rotunda Hospital (-14%), Royal Victoria Eye & Ear (-8%), Mater Hospital (-6%), St Vincent’s University Hospital (-2%) and St James’s Hospital (-0.1%) – according to the IHCA analysis.
Commenting on the waiting lists and Consultant vacancies across Dublin’s hospitals, IHCA President, Professor Robert Landers, said:
“Our health service, medical teams and hospital management in the capital need to fill the almost 300 vacant permanent Consultant posts across Dublin’s acute hospital and mental health services and significantly increase hospital capacity, ahead of yet another challenging autumn and winter for patients in desperate need of timely care.
“It is still unclear how bad the flu season will be this winter on top of growing Covid challenges. The concern is that we could see an increase in people coming to hospital with severe symptoms, resulting in further increased pressure on an already overstretched public hospital service. This could result in the cancellation of thousands of planned appointments and procedures, further exacerbating the ever-growing waiting lists which nationally stand at over 907,000 people.
“The Minister for Health’s admission last week that less than half of the €350 million allocated to reduce waiting list could be spent was not a surprise to us, as the Action Plan was based on the false premise that as much as 25% of the backlog of care could be outsourced to the private system. This was always questionable in view of the capacity limits in the sector.
“We have a chronic Consultant recruitment and retention crisis with over 900 (22% of the total) permanent posts across the country not filled as needed,5 with a third of these vacancies in Dublin. We know what the problems are, and we know what it takes to fix them: fill these vacant permanent Consultant posts, open the required number of public hospital beds and other facilities on a properly resourced and staffed basis.
“The success of the consultant contract discussions will be critical to the survival of our public health service not only during the challenging winter months ahead but for years to come. It is essential these talks deliver on the ‘unambiguous commitment’ made by the Minister for Health two years ago to end the pay inequity issue for all Consultants contracted since 2012.
“The negotiations must be given an opportunity to succeed, by reaching agreement on a new Consultant Contract that is as attractive as possible for current and future cohorts of Consultants.”
1. The Hospitals in the Dublin region include: Beaumont, Cappagh, Central Mental Hospital, Children’s Health Ireland (incl. Crumlin, Tallaght and Temple Street), Connolly, the Coombe, the Mater, Holles Street, the Rotunda, Royal Victoria Eye & Ear, St Columcille’s, St James’s, St Michael’s, St Vincent’s, and Tallaght. Consultant vacancies in CHO 6 (Dublin South East, Dun Laoghaire, Wicklow), CHO 7 ((Dublin West, Dublin South City, Dublin South West, Kildare/West Wicklow), and CHO 9 (Dublin North, Dublin North Central, Dublin North West) are also included in the total for the Dublin region, as are those in BreastCheck in Dublin and a small number of other sites.
2. Analysis based on latest NTFP data available as at 29 September 2022: https://www.ntpf.ie/home/nwld.htm.
3. HSE PQ response to Deputy David Cullinane, 28 June 2022; https://www.hse.ie/eng/about/personalpq/pq/2022-pq-responses/june-2022/pq-31525-22-david-cullinane.pdf.
4. 2022 Waiting List Action Plan, 25 February 2022: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/323b5-the-2022-waiting-list-action-plan/.
5. There were 882 permanent Hospital Consultant posts not filled as needed on 3 May 2022, including 473 permanent Consultant posts totally vacant (HSE PQ response to Deputy Paul Kehoe, 11 May 2022: https://www.hse.ie/eng/about/personalpq/pq/2022-pq-responses/april-2022/pq-19432-22-paul-kehoe.pdf). The number of vacant Consultant posts increased to 507 as at 7 June 2022 (HSE PQ response to Deputy David Cullinane, 19 July 2022: https://www.ihca.ie/_fileupload/HSE%20PQ%20Response%20David%20Cullinane%2011%20July%202022%20PQ%20ref%2037453%2022.pdf). Adding this to the 342 posts filled by temporary and locum consultants, and the additional 61 posts filled on an agency basis in May, suggested there are around 910 permanent Consultant posts currently not filled as needed.
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