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Over 285,000 people in Dublin could face longer waits for care this winter as consultants call for urgent Government action to prepare hospitals

  • Over the past six years almost 87,000 additional people have been added to outpatient waiting lists at Dublin hospitals which now total 242,000 – a 56% increase overall.
  • Number of patients waiting longer than a year for hospital treatment has increased by 42% since 2015, with a massive 4-fold increase in children waiting longer than 12 months for care.
  • Predicted severe flu season would make catching up on backlog of missed care extremely challenging say hospital consultants.
  • Consultant recruitment crisis in Dublin’s acute hospital and mental health services is root cause of delays in providing care, accounting for over one third of all consultant posts unfilled on permanent basis nationally.


IHCA President Prof Alan Irvine: “Our health service, hospital management and clinical teams in the capital need fully funded plans in place to fill the 240 vacant permanent consultant posts across Dublin’s acute hospital and mental health services and increase hospital capacity, ahead of what may be the most challenging winter ever for the health service.” 


The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has today (4 November 2021) warned that the ongoing shortage of hospital consultants across a large number of specialties in Dublin’s acute hospital and mental health services is restricting patients from accessing timely, high-quality medical and surgical care and is contributing massively to growing waiting lists in the region.


A total of 241,925 people are currently awaiting an outpatient appointment with a Consultant at hospitals across the capital, an increase of almost 87,000 (+56%) since 2015.*


More than 33,500 patients are currently waiting for inpatient or day case treatment at Dublin hospitals, which is 45% of the national figure of 74,869 at the end of September. Of these, more than 7,300 are waiting more than 12 months, an increase of almost 2,200 (42%) in such ‘longer waiters’ over the past six years.


A further 9,637 people are currently awaiting a gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy, which brings the total number of people in Dublin awaiting hospital treatment or assessment by a consultant to 285,104.


Across the capital’s public hospitals and three Community Health Organisations serving the region**, 246 out of a total of 1,714 approved Consultant posts were vacant or filled on a temporary or agency basis (as at May 2021) – that is one third of the 727 posts nationally not filled as needed.*** One in five permanent hospital consultant posts are currently either vacant or filled on a temporary basis across the country. However, in CHOs 6, 7 and 9, which provide the capital’s mental health and community services, the Consultant vacancy rates are almost 1 in 4.


The scale of vacancies in the capital has directly contributed to some of the longest hospital waiting lists in the country. Analysis from the IHCA* shows that between September 2015 and September 2021, the hospitals experiencing the greatest growth in their outpatient waiting lists were:


Hospital Outpatients September 2015 Outpatients September 2021 Change
St Columcille’s Hospital 2,512 5,962 +137%
Royal Victoria Eye & Ear 7,599 15,440 +103%
St James’s Hospital 13,607 26,302 +93%
Mater Hospital 23,820 45,645 +92%
St Vincent’s Hospital 14,901 25,760 +73%
Tallaght Hospital 21,209 36,075 +70%


In the specialty of Dermatology, for example, the Outpatient waiting lists in Dublin have increased by almost 8,500 (+61%) since September 2015 to 22,400. A quarter of these (5,633) are children waiting for an assessment at the three Dublin paediatric hospitals.


The number of patients waiting longer than a year for inpatient/day case treatment in the region increased by 2,181 (42%) over the past six years, with the largest increases again seen in children waiting for care at Children’s Health Ireland at Crumlin, Tallaght and Temple Street, which combined saw a four-fold increase.


These waiting lists are likely to worsen in the coming weeks, amidst growing concerns over the severity of the flu season this year and its potential impact on health service capacity.


Consultants say that putting in place a clear plan containing practical, workable solutions to provide timely care to patients in Ireland’s public acute hospitals is critical and must be delivered immediately.


The Association has called on the Department of Health to bring forward the long-awaited multi-annual waiting list reduction plan and to provide realistic yet ambitious targets and timescales for the reduction of Ireland’s shocking waiting lists.


Commenting on the waiting lists and Consultant vacancies across Dublin’s hospitals, IHCA President Professor Alan Irvine, said:


“Our public hospital and mental health services in the capital need fully funded plans in place to fill the 240 vacant consultant posts across Dublin’s services to increase hospital capacity, ahead of what may be the most challenging winter ever for the health service.


“It is still unclear how bad the flu season will be this winter on top of growing Covid challenges. The concern is that with less flu immunity in the population we could see an increase in people coming to hospital with severe symptoms, resulting in further increased pressure on an already overstretched public hospital service. This would make catching up on the backlog of missed care during the pandemic extremely challenging.


“Growing waiting lists at Dublin hospitals demonstrate the impact of years of consultant shortages and underinvestment in capacity across these public hospitals.


“We have a chronic recruitment and retention crisis with 1 in 5 permanent hospital consultant posts across the country either vacant or filled on a temporary basis.


“We know what the problems are, and we know what it takes to fix them: fill these vacant permanent consultant posts, open the required number of beds and other facilities on a properly resourced and staffed basis. Yet there is no clear commitment to doing this from the Government.


“The success of the ongoing consultant contract discussions will be critical to the survival of our public health service not only during the challenging winter months ahead but for years to come. It is essential these talks deliver on the ‘unambiguous commitment’ made by the Minister for Health to resolve the pay inequity issue for all Consultants contracted since 2012.”

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