Press Release

Minister Martin publishes Hospital Waiting List Figures for the Second Quarter of 2002

Figures released today (7th November, 2002) by the Minister for Health and Children show that hospital waiting list figures stood at 24,850 at the end of June 2002. This figure represents an overall decrease of 1,809 or nearly 7% in waiting list numbers relative to the comparable figure for 2001. It also represents a decrease of 255 on the comparable number for March 2002.

The June 2002 figure above has been compiled in line with the same classification and recording procedures of previously published waiting lists.

The total number of adults waiting for more than 12 months for treatment in the target specialties has fallen by 22% in the period June 2001 to June 2002.

“There has been a significant fall in the number of adults waiting more than one year for treatment in the period June 2001 to June 2002. I am confident that the funding that has been provided for the Waiting List Initiative and the National Treatment Purchase Fund will continue to make significant progress in tackling the long waiters. The National Treatment Purchase Fund is continuing to increase its caseload and expects to have treated close on 1,900 patients by the end of this year. ” the Minister said.

The new Health Strategy contains a commitment that the management and organisation of waiting lists will be reformed. The Department of Health and Children has set out to regularise and standardise the reporting of waiting lists. It has commenced the process of separating out data from all public hospitals on in-patient waiting list figures for elective procedures. However, there are a number of anomalies and definitional issues surrounding day case work that need to be addressed to allow consistent and comparative analysis across the hospital system. There has been a rapid movement in the last few years towards day case work where a variety of routine and complex treatments, surgery and diagnostic tests can now be performed with the patient being admitted and discharged from hospital on the same day. The settings for day case work vary from traditional theatres to specially constructed day surgery units and treatment rooms.

The Department is continuing to work closely with health agencies with regard to these issues and hopes to be in a position to publish data on day case waiting lists and on waiting times in the near future. In order to achieve greater consistency in the reporting of waiting lists, the Department will soon issue a revised set of guidelines for hospitals on the collection and reporting of hospital waiting lists.

The Department is in a position to publish separate in-patient waiting list figures for the June quarter. Hospital in-patient waiting lists stood at 21,574 at the end of June 2002. This figure represents the number of patients waiting for admission to hospital which involves at least one overnight stay in hospital. This figure for in-patient waiting lists does not lend itself to direct comparison with previously reported figures as these figures included a combination of in-patient and day case lists. A complete breakdown of the in-patient waiting list by hospital and specialty is being made available on the DepartmentĀ“s web site at www.doh.ie.

Hospital waiting lists must be viewed against a background of a hospital system that discharged some 920,000 in-patients and day cases in 2001. This equates to some 2,500 discharges per day for every single day of the year. It represents an overall increase of 42,000 discharges or 5% over the figure for 2000. Day case activity has increased by 10% from 324,000 day case discharges in 2000 to 359,000 day case discharges in 2001. Overall acute hospital activity has increased by 17% over the last five years.

“Day case surgery now accounts for about 50% of all elective surgical admissions to acute hospitals and it is appropriate that the in-patient and day case waiting lists be reported separately. Increased use of day surgery will improve the efficiency of the hospital system and provide speedier access to services for the patient and reduce waiting times” the Minister said.