Waiting lists on upward spiral again

Health Minister James Reilly's drive to cut hospital outpatient waiting lists has come off the rails, with new figures showing that the number of patients waiting over a year for an outpatient consultation has nearly doubled.

And treatment waiting list numbers are also on an upward spiral, the figures show.

Earlier this year, Minister Reilly announced that the number of people waiting over a year for a consultant outpatient appointment had dropped by 95% between March and December last year.

Figures at the time showed that the numbers waiting in this time category had dropped dramatically from just under 57,000 to around 4,600 between the end of November and the end of December last. Dr Reilly said the 2013 waiting list cut represented 'real progress in our health system'.

However, latest HSE figures show that outpatient waits are spiralling upwards again. The numbers waiting over a year for an outpatient visit jumped from 4,937 to 9,604 between the end of December and the end of January.

The number waiting between one and two years for an appointment jumped from 3,990 to 8,334 in the space of four weeks, while numbers waiting between two and four years to see a consultant increased from 903 to 1,101.

The number of patients waiting four years or more for an outpatient visit has jumped from 44 to 169.

The numbers waiting between six and 12 months for an appointment has also increased, from 81,682 to 87,806.

The overall national numbers on outpatient lists at the end of January was 309,496, compared to 300,752 at the end of December.

Minister Reilly and the HSE's target for 2013 was to have no-one waiting over a year for an outpatient appointment by the end of December last.

Latest figures also show that total treatment waiting list numbers increased from 44,870 to 47,112 between the end of December and the end of January.

Only four adult patients were waiting over nine months for inpatient/day case hospital treatment at the end of December, but the numbers waiting over eight months for treatment at the end of January was 1,764, according to HSE figures.

Eight months is the new maximum waiting time target for inpatient/day case treatment set by Minister Reilly.

A total of 317 children were on treatment waiting lists for more than five months at the end of December, but this had jumped to 473 at the end of January.

[Posted: Tue 15/04/2014]

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