Irish waiting lists among Europe's worst

The waiting time for treatment in Ireland ranks alongside Sweden, Poland and the UK as the longest in Europe

Newstalk, Galway, University Hospital Galway, John ODonnell, overcrowding, trolley, bed, patient, hospital, Emergency Department, ED, capacity, overcrowding

Picture by: Tim Ockenden / PA Archive/Press Association Images

Ireland has one of the highest healthcare waiting times in Europe according to the latest figures.

The European Health Consumer Index - which ranks 35 countries under a range of categories - has placed Ireland in 21st place overall.

The report called into the question the validity of Ireland’s official statistics on waiting times and instead used responses from Irish patient organisations to provide a clearer picture of the waiting time situation.

It said that while the official statistics are “very detailed,” responses from patient organisations are “much more negative.”

The report notes that that even if a 2015 government target of reducing healthcare waiting times to no more than 18 months is met - patients in Ireland will still be facing, “the worst waiting time situation in Europe.”

There are six other EU countries ranked as having poor emergency department waiting times alongside Ireland – the UK, Sweden, Poland, Italy, Slovakia and Greece.

On top of the waiting time difficulties facing patients in Ireland the country has also ranked poorly in terms of the equality of the health system, access to online appointment bookings and direct access to a consultant.

However, the country ranked well in terms of access to medicine, cancer survival and in terms of the decreasing number deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke.

The report has been published by the Swedish think tank, the ‘Health Consumer Powerhouse’ since 2005.

Overall the researchers found that European healthcare is “steadily improving” with infant mortality, rates and survival rates for heart disease, stroke and cancer “all moving in the right direction.”

The report warns that too many countries are sticking to “inefficient ways to fund and deliver care services.”

The report concludes that many of the countries surveyed would benefit by copying the most successful systems in the list.

Professor Arne Bjornberg, head of the EHCI research team urged governments to “stop trying to re-invent the wheel in favour of copying proven progress.”

He said copying successful systems could reduce mortality, improve quality of life and save money.

Professor Bjornberg said Ireland is guilty of sticking to an “inefficient, unequal semi-private funding” model of healthcare.

The Netherlands still holds the top spot in the overall list with Switzerland and Norway coming in second and third.