Health Minister thanks healthcare workers for reduction in trolley numbers from June-Dec

by Rose Barrett
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Trolley crisis 2018

The number of patients on hospital trolleys was down by 20 per cent in the last six months of 2023, compared to the same six months in 2022, as the new Urgent & Emergency Care Plan became operational. Overall the total number of patients on trolleys in hospitals has fallen by 7.5pc in 2023, compared to 2022.

‘While Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly thanked healthcare workers for their contribution to this reduction, he also warned that Dublin and national hospitals will come under increased pressure in January.

Last Spring and early summer, the figures of patients awaiting beds in emergency departments was at crisis point, and the INMO had threatened strike action.

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly PIC JULIEN BEHAL PHOTOGRAPHY

The HSE’s improved performance is even more pronounced in the second six months of 2023, with the number of patients on trolleys down by 20% since July 2023, compared to the same six months in 2022. At the Minister’s request the HSE moved in 2023 from yearly Winter Plans to a year-round approach and the HSE’s Urgent and Emergency Care Operational Plan 2023 was published in July.

Over the Christmas weekend (23-26 December) there were 80pc fewer patients waiting on trolleys, compared to the same period in 2022. 

Minister Donnelly thanked all those working in hospital and community settings. He said that the progress was the result of a system-wide response right across the HSE, general practice, home care, pharmacies and the nursing home sector. 

He noted: “While we still have too many patients on trolleys awaiting an in-patient bed, it is important to acknowledge that significant progress has been made this year, particularly since we moved to a year- round approach to Urgent and Emergency Care in the latter half of the year.

“This is due to planned reforms as well as investment in increased bed capacity and staffing numbers over the last three years. Reforms are enabling the wider adoption of better processes that have been proven to work in many of our hospitals that consistently perform well. The Urgent and Emergency Care Operational Plan focuses on four key areas: hospital avoidance, Emergency Department (ED) operations, in hospital operations and hospital discharge. I’d like to thank all healthcare staff for their huge effort.”

He continued: “It is regrettable that any patient has to wait beyond an acceptable timeframe for a hospital bed. The evidence clearly shows the negative impact long waits in the Emergency Department can have. We need to see further progress in 2024.” 

The Minister warned that Influenza and Covid cases were continuing to rise.  He said an increase in presentations from Covid-19 and flu, as well as a high level of RSV presentations this year, would all contribute to an increased demand and pressure on hospitals and the wider health service, in the coming weeks. 

“Frontline staff and management have worked together relentlessly over the Christmas period to ensure our hospitals worked as efficiently as possible, delivering an 80% reduction in patients on trolleys during this period. It is imperative that the laser-sharp focus the HSE has had over Christmas period continues into January, when our Emergency Departments are under the greatest pressure.”

The Minister urged the public to consider all care options, including their GPs, pharmacists, local Injury Unit and out of hours services before presenting at EDs. As always, people who do require emergency care are encouraged to attend EDs where they will be prioritised.  We urge those in target groups, who have not already done so, to avail of the vaccines available against flu and Covid-19.

He further welcomed the improved transparency and detailed daily reporting on Emergency Department and Hospital capacity from the HSE which is providing a publicly available daily report showing the number of patients waiting on trolleys in the Emergency Departments and the number of extra patients on trolleys in the wards. 

The HSE’s daily report also shows the use of surge capacity. Surge capacity in use is the number of beds taken from elsewhere in the hospital to meet ED demand. 

It also shows the numbers of Delayed Transfer of Care (DTOC) patients. A delayed transfer of care is when a patient is ready to leave hospital but is still occupying a bed. It happens when a patient is waiting to go home or into care elsewhere, but the care or home supports are not yet in place for them.

SeeUrgent and emergency care report (daily) – 

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