The draft HSE performance report for July was received in my Department on the 7th of September. The figure reported therein of 339,441 patients waiting for an outpatient appointment is unacceptably high. However the reported increase is not due to a sudden large increase in the numbers waiting but rather to more accurate data which presents a more accurate picture of the problem.
That this more accurate reporting procedure in relation to outpatient waiting lists would show an increase in the numbers has been public knowledge for some time now. In April this year a HSE report indicated that based on unvalidated interim results, not including all hospitals, nearly 178,000 patients were waiting for an outpatient appointment. That HSE report related to 30 hospitals and indicated that the figures were likely to rise once figures became available from all hospitals.
In a press briefing on 21 June this year the Special Delivery Unit (SDU) reported that its best estimate at that time was that the total national outpatient waiting list was likely to be approximately 350,000 patients. The major problem for patients was the number having to wait an inordinate amount of time for a consultation.
I am determined to address outpatient waiting lists. Improving outpatient services is the next priority for the SDU. The collation and analysis of outpatient waiting time data in this standardised format will enable the SDU and NTPF to target their resources towards those patients who are waiting longest and ensure that they are seen and assessed. It will also allow hospitals to begin to reform and standardise the manner in which they provide outpatient services to ensure that patients receive an equitable service irrespective of their geographical location.