Limerick hospital aims to have ‘nobody waiting for over 15 months’

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

University Hospital Limerick
RESOURCES are being pumped into the University Hospital Limerick to reduce waiting list levels, in order to reach its target of having zero people waiting for appointments and procedures for more than 15 months.

RESOURCES are being pumped into the University Hospital Limerick to reduce waiting list levels, in order to reach its target of having zero people waiting for appointments and procedures for more than 15 months.

In January, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar set out national goals to have zero patients waiting for outpatient, inpatient and day case appointments for more than 15 months by the end of the year.

Recent figures released by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) show that 28,207 people were waiting for outpatient appointments within the UL Hospitals Group, at the end of November. At UHL, there were 18,703 people waiting for outpatient appointments, with 1,036 people waiting for more than 15 months.

For more than 15 months, a total of 409 people were waiting for ENT (ears, nose and throat) appointments, 108 in neurology, 135 in general medicine, 85 in ophthalmology, 66 in rheumatology, 60 in geriatric medicine, 55 in gynaecology, and smaller numbers in other units, totalling 118 people.

A UL Hospitals spokesperson stated on Wednesday afternoon that two additional ENT consultants will be recruited. Additionally, a locum ENT surgeon has been brought in to help clear surgical cases.

According to the spokesperson, additional neurology resources have been put in place to “ensure that anybody waiting longer than 15 months for an outpatients appointment will be offered an appointment by the end of this year”.

The NTPF reports that no one was waiting for more than 15 months for anaesthetics, endocrinology, haematology, and nephrology appointments.

The report also shows that the UL Hospitals Group had the lowest number of patients waiting for an appointment, in any group across the country. By the end of October, there were approximately 188,000 attendances at outpatient clinics, according to the Group spokesperson.

The spokesperson said that outpatient appointments and surgical procedures are arranged “according to medical need”.

“Beyond this, and in accordance with the national targets, the focus of UL Hospitals Group has been on seeing and treating those who have been waiting the longest.

“And while the latest published NTPF data identifies patients who have been waiting 15 months and longer, UL Hospitals Group is working hard to ensure that by the end of this month and across all specialties, nobody will have been waiting longer than 15 months.”

The spokesperson added that some patients waiting the longest may have “complex medical needs and may not on occasion be fit to take up a date for surgery when offered”.

In June, UL Hospitals Group became the first group in the country to achieve the 18-month waiting list target for outpatient, inpatient and day case activity.

Reasons for the consistent increase in waiting list numbers include “increasing demand” and that more patients are being referred to clinics by their GPs.

The spokesperson stated that the rise in patients awaiting inpatient or day case procedures during the year is a result of actions taken in 2014 and in early 2015 to offer outpatient appointments to the longest waiting patients.

According to the NTPF figures, there were only 37 people waiting for inpatient or day case procedures by the end of November, at UHL. According to the Group spokesperson, all of these patients waiting for surgeries will be seen by the end of the year, in line with the national targets.

In June, UL Hospitals Group became the first group in the country to achieve the 18-month waiting list target for outpatient, inpatient and day case activity.

St John’s Hospital is one of three hospitals in Ireland — of the 43 listed — to have no waiting list for outpatient appointments for more than a year.

The inpatient waiting list at Croom has increased by more than 95% since the first quarter of 2015, as there were 171 people waiting for treatment in March.

Meanwhile, an electronic system that will improve patient referrals at Limerick hospitals will be rolled out in the New Year.

The new eReferral system, which will go live at all UL Hospitals next month, is expected to “ensure better communications between health professionals in primary care and hospital settings”.