An total of 8,455 people were added to Irish hospital waiting lists in January, including 6,650 to outpatient lists – the first time this list has seen an increase since August.
New figures from the National Treatment Purchase fund show that 877,700 people were on some form of waiting list at the end of January, which is an increase of one per cent on the previous month.
According to the data, at the end of January 2024:
- 568,691 patients are waiting for a first hospital outpatient consultation.
- 24,268 patients were waiting to receive an appointment for their GI endoscopy.
- 86,288 patients were waiting for an appointment for their inpatient or day case treatment.
Of those on inpatient and day case lists, 52,700 (61 per cent) are currently waiting longer than three months for their procedure.
In response, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said it is ‘unacceptable’ that funding to tackle waiting lists is being cut in 2024 by €38 million compared with the allocation in 2023, despite growth in demand for treatment.
“The Government needs to honour its pledge to fund treatment for any clinically suitable patient waiting more than three months on the inpatient and day case waiting list,” said IHCA president Prof Robert Landers. “This commitment must not be omitted from the Waiting List Action Plan for 2024 when published.
“In parallel, the Minster for Health must deliver on his previous pledge to open 1,500 additional rapid build hospital beds across 15 acute public hospital sites this year. The Government needs to implement that plan immediately and commit the promised €1 billion capital budget to open these beds as indicated.
“At the same time, delivery of the promised six surgical hubs and the long awaited four elective hospitals must also be accelerated in order to provide the capacity that is required to meet all of these reduction targets.
“Regrettably, in the short-term, waiting lists are likely to deteriorate further due to the cancellation of many outpatient appointments, inpatient admissions and day case procedures, including chemotherapy and dialysis, due to the record overcrowding we are currently experiencing at many hospitals,” he added.
A statement from the Department of Health said that the surge in demand for unscheduled care in January means that ‘we would expect to see waiting lists for elective care trend upwards at this time’.
“In the last year, since January 2023, the total waiting list has decreased by -18,646 (three per cent),” the statement added. “As of the end of January, there were 679,247 patients on the active hospital waiting lists.
“Since January 2023, the outpatient (OPD) waiting list has decreased by -20,979 (four per cent), the inpatient / day case (IPDC) waiting list has increased by 2,811 (three per cent) and the year-on-year comparison at the end of January 2024 shows that the GI scopes waiting list decreased by -478 (two per cent).”