With parents of children awaiting urgent scoliosis and similar critical surgeries still calling on the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to facilitate a second opinion abroad, there was a mixed review for Minister Donnelly regarding the current waiting list times over the past year.
On Friday last, hospital waiting list figures were released by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) assessing waiting times across OPD, IPDC and GI Scope lists and Sláintecare target waiting times in October.
The total number of patients treated/removed from the OPD, IPDC and GI Scope waiting lists during the first ten months of the year was c.3.2 per cent (c.44,000) higher than target and c.11.1pc (142,000) more than in the same period last year.
Against the 2023 WLAP, the total waiting list position is c.7.7pc (c.49,000behind target, as a result of additions being c.7pc (93,000) higher than projected. Additions YTD are c.11.5pc (147,000) higher than the same period in 2022 and c.19pc (227,000) higher than the same period in 2019 (which was pre-pandemic).
The figures show that 476,451 people are now on the Active Waiting Lists (inpatient/day case, GI Scopes and outpatients) waiting longer than the Sláintecare maximum wait times.
Some positive news for the Minister of Health.
However, there was some good news for the HSE and the Minister, especially for Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown which reduced the number of patients waiting over 13 weeks for colonoscopy or OGD procedures by 90pc in the last year, from 540 to 55!
As at the end of October 2023:
· 48,881 people are currently exceeding the 12-week inpatient/day case (IPDC) target which is a c.2.5pc decrease compared to the end of September.
· 9,398 people are exceeding the 12-week GI Scope target which is an c.4.5pc decrease compared to the end of September.
· 418,172 people are exceeding the 10-week outpatient (OPD) target, a c.3.2pc decrease compared to the end of September.
This progress is even more remarkable given the challenging backdrop, in common with health services across Europe, of continuing significantly higher additions to waiting lists than projected.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) and other health services attribute higher than anticipated additions to waiting lists to several factors, including post-pandemic pent-up demand.
The NTPF also announced the launch of its new “Enhanced Reporting” waiting list dashboard on Friday last. This new dashboard will be published on the NTPF website and will enable patients and professionals to gain a better insight into the NTPF’s National Public Hospital Waiting lists. The new enhanced reporting system will provide trends over time as well as a more interactive experience for all patients and professionals. Enhanced Reporting will improve the accessibility and usability of the existing website reports which provide information on the waiting times and availability of hospital services across the country.It will demonstrate improvements such as reductions in long waiters through user-friendly graphics.
Welcoming the development, Minister Donnelly said: “I have been driving such improvements in transparency and this new enhanced reporting of waiting lists is to be welcomed, and will empower patients, with their treating clinician, to make informed decisions about their care.”
The Enhanced Reporting launch is the start of a larger project for Best Practice Reporting (BPR), which will provide waiting time information in addition to existing waiting list information for IDPP, OP and Radiology Diagnostics. BPR will provide access to meaningful wait time information for patients and will assist in maximising resources to ensure effective management of waiting time and waiting list information.
The latest hospital activity report published monthly by the HSE is now available online. Hospital activity update – November 2023 This gives regular insight into acute activity levels, with millions of patients being seen and treated annually within our hospital system alone.
The health service is treating significantly more patients. For the most recently available 12 months of data, there were 3.6m outpatient and c.1.8m inpatient / day case attendances. In addition to this planned (‘scheduled’) care, our hospital system also treated c.1.7m patients during this same period in emergency (‘unscheduled’) care, which represents an 11% increase on 2019 (pre-pandemic) levels and reflects the ongoing pressure on hospitals and increased Emergency Department (ED) attendances, particularly amongst older people.
The funding allocated from Budget 2024, €407m, will facilitate the next steps in the multi-annual approach towards achieving the vision of a world-class public healthcare system, in line with Sláintecare reforms.