178,000 on outpatient waiting lists
Just under 178,000 people are on waiting lists nationally for public hospital outpatient appointments, according to new figures produced by the HSE.
Nearly 60,000 patients have been waiting over six months for an outpatient appointment and some patients have been waiting over four years to be seen in outpatients
The HSE says its outpatient waiting list data is not complete at this stage, which means that the actual total number waiting could be well over 200,000.
An outpatient waiting list is essentially a 'waiting list to get on another waiting list', as those who attend are usually then placed on a list for actual treatment. There are nearly 60,000 on treatment waiting lists at present.
The HSE says according to its latest available data, a total of 167,825 patients are waiting for outpatient appointments who have been on lists since January of last year, while a further 10,129 patients have been on outpatient lists since before that date.
Of the patients put on outpatient lists before January 1 2011, 316 have been waiting over four years for an appointment, while 837 have been waiting between three and four years, 2,146 have been waiting between two and three years and 6,830 have been waiting between a year and two years to be seen.
According to the HSE, of the patients on outpatient lists since January of last year, 29% of these, numbering 48,861, have been waiting longer than six months for an appointment in a hospital outpatient clinic.
Only one hospital in the country, St James's, has no patient waiiting longer than six months to be seen in outpatients.
At the end of February, the total outpatient waiting list stood at 177,954. However patients waiting in some hospitals, including major centres like Galway University Hospital, Limerick Regional and St Vincent's in Dublin, are not yet included in these new waiting list figures.
The hospital with the biggest number on outpatient lists, according to the HSE's report, is Tallaght in Dublin, which has 21,670 patients on lists - 229 of these patients have been waiting over three years for an appointment.
Beaumont Hospital in Dublin has 14,010 on outpatient waiting lists. At Letterkenny General Hospital, 789 patients have been on outpatient waiting lists for over three years.
This is the first time for a number of years that the HSE has produced outpatient waiting list figures.
The HSE says since early 2011 it has been updating the outpatient waiting list information from each hospital in order to obtain standardised, defined and robust data relating to consultant-delivered outpatient services, and to improve the quality of the processes used by hospitals to manage their demand for outpatient services.
The health executive said there had been considerable variations in how hospitals approached the management of outpatient services, which led to a number of 'unacceptable risks'.
The HSE says the outpatient data now being produced provides high quality reports 'which are a very important tool in the active management of 'outpatient services.'
However, while the HSE has improved the management of its outpatient waiting list data, there has been no noticeable improvement in outpatient waiting list numbers since it last produced figures.
Figures given by the HSE to the Comptroller and Auditor General in 2009 showed that there were then 175,000 people on outpatient waiting lists.
The new HSE figures also show that many patients do not turn up for their outpatient appointment. The hospital with the highest 'do not attend' rate in the country is st John's in Limerick, wherer nearly 59% of patients do not attend for their appointment.
[Posted: Thu 05/04/2012]