Outpatient waiting figures continue to rise

Friday 20th February 2015 - Deborah Condon , View Article Here

Over 61,000 people were waiting for more than one year for an outpatient hospital appointment in December of last year, an increase of more than 5,600 when compared to November.

The figures are contained in the HSE's latest Performance Assurance Report, which covers the period December 2014.

It noted that despite the HSE's Outpatient Improvement Project, which is targeting capacity and business improvements across all hospitals, ‘outpatient waiting numbers are continuing to increase due to higher demand and referral rates'.

In relation to planned procedures, three in four adults were waiting less than eight months, however 13,415 people were waiting more than eight months, a 7% increase on November's figure and an increase of more than 11,000 from the end of January 2014 position.

Meanwhile 60% of all children waiting for a planned procedure were waiting less than 20 weeks, however, over 2,200 children were waiting more than 20 weeks - a 2% increase on November's figure and an increase of 1,809 patients on the number reported at the end of January 2014.

The report also revealed that in December, there were 21 breaches for urgent colonoscopy, an investigative procedure that among other things, can detect bowel cancer.

Of the 21 breaches, 14 related to patients at Waterford General Hospital and three were at Dublin's Mater Hospital. The report stated that while data for January 2015 is awaited from one hospital, information already to hand suggests major further breaches, including 22 at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, 10 at Dublin's Tallaght Hospital and five at Dublin's St Vincent's Hospital.

"A plan to deal with the persistent breaches in Waterford University Hospital is now in place. This includes 10 endoscopy slots in February to accommodate all potential urgent colonoscopy breaches," the report said.

It is not all bad news however. The report revealed that 92% of urgent breast cancer referrals were seen within two weeks, although this is slightly lower than the HSE's 95% target. Meanwhile 92% of referrals to lung cancer rapid access clinics were seen within 10 days.

Also in December, 97% of specialist palliative care inpatients beds were provided within seven days of referral, surpassing the HSE's target of 94%, while 89% of patients received specialist palliative care services in their place of residence within seven days of referral. This target is 82%.

The report also pointed out that during the month of December, ‘the increased number of patients on trolleys awaiting admission to hospital was one of the key priority areas within the health service that received significant attention'.

It noted a 46% increase in the number of Emergency Department (ED) patients waiting on trolleys for ward bed accommodation in December 2014 when compared to December 2013.

Commenting on the report, Health Minister Leo Varadkar said that while there were some ‘small-scale improvements', these figures ‘show the scale of the challenge confronting the health service'.


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