Up to 70,000 removed from waiting lists without consultation

Catherine Gallagher

Nearly 70,000 patients have been removed from out-patient waiting lists this year without an initial consultation, according to Fianna Fáil’s health spokesperson Stephen Donnelly.

The figures obtained from GPs and shared by Donnelly reveal that 69,836 patients were cut from waiting lists as part of a “validation exercise” after staff inquired that they were “ready, willing, suitable and available” to attend.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund established a centralised unit for validating hospital waiting lists in September of this year. Minister for Health Simon Harris said this was to set out a standardised approach to the process.

Speaking to The College View, Donnelly commented on the efficacy of the validation process: “It is always important that list numbers are accurate.  Invariably there are some patients on waiting lists that shouldn’t be there, however, what the recent statistics show us is that the current approach to patient care by the Government is clearly wrong.”

The South/South-West Hospital Group – which includes the likes of Cork University Hospital, University Hospital Kerry and Lourdes Orthopaedic Hospital Kilcreene – had the largest number of names removed of its list by over 22,000.

“The Government has failed to provide us with details as to why there was such a huge number of patients removed from waiting lists in the South/South-West area,” Donnelly added.

Nationally, more than 10 per cent of the overall number of 500,000 names were removed from the list. There have been reports that doctors are being inundated with 100 letters every week due to the validation exercises.

In a statement released by the National Association of General Practitioners, it said that the validation system in “its current guise is a national disgrace”, and will be the “next inevitable scandal of our health service.”

It added: “There is no logical reason for this form of validation and indeed it creates more barriers and bureaucracy, in terms of access to care for the most vulnerable in society. We want immediate reform of the validation process.

“We believe the HSE should directly contact patients and that if a patient fails to attend three appointments at a hospital, they would then be removed from the list and be so notified.”

It also transpires that 9,864 people over the age of 75 were left lying on trolleys for at least 24 hours between January and August of this year. The figures shared by the Fianna Fáil TD show that the South/South West Hospital Group consistently had the highest number of over 75s on trolleys compared to other hospital groups.

Patients were particularly affected at the start of the year as there were 1,955 people on trolleys in January alone.

Donnelly predicts that the numbers are set to rise: “I really do fear for the coming winter. I fully expect the total number for this year to exceed 14,000 – a shocking statistic in itself but even worse when we consider that these are our parents, our aunts and uncles left lying, often in a very vulnerable state, on uncomfortable and unsuitable trolleys.”

Age Action Ireland is a national independent organisation that supports older people. It acts as a development agency to promote better policies and services for the elderly ageing in society.

“It is scandalous that people over the age of 75 are left on trolleys. We believe the reason for this is that the resources are not being properly allocated,” Gerard Scully of Age Action said.

“More resources need to be allocated to community services which would allow more people to move out of hospital care into the community where most older people want to live. This would inevitably free up beds and take the pressure off Accident and Emergency services,” he said.

Catherine Gallagher

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