Press release

HSE publishes key healthcare activity figures for 2023

Figures show a significant increase in number of patients treated and reduction in waiting times

Published: 15 April 2024

Updated: 6 May 2024

The HSE has published its 2023 hospital activity figures, which show that a record number of patients were treated in hospital last year, with the highest ever number of people receiving day case care, attending outpatient appointments and receiving hospital care as inpatients. 

The latest figures also show that almost 1.7 million people received emergency care in 2023, which is an increase of 29,000 in the previous year and an increase of 188,000 in 2019. The latest data also shows a steady rise in the number of people receiving care at an injury unit, with 165k attendances last year, up from 147k in 2022 and up from 99k in 2019.

The HSE acknowledges that unacceptably long waiting lists remain for many procedures and that our emergency departments continue to face sustained pressure. However the increase in the number of patients seen and treated reflects the investment in the waiting list action plans over the last number of years, which has delivered additional activity as well as facilitating a range of waiting list reduction measures and reform initiatives across hospital and community. Last year, these measures included:

  • Increasing hospital core activity, which delivered 1.33 million new appointments (9.1% more than in 2022)
  • Additional outpatient clinics, including weekend and blitz clinics, clinical validation, clinical insourcing and accessing capacity from private hospitals, which helped remove c. 80,000 patients from waiting lists
  • NTPF commissioned over 156,000 episodes of care
  • We are particularly pleased to have reduced both the volume of our scheduled care waiting list and the time people are waiting, the latter being the essential factor; for example, there was an 11% reduction in the numbers waiting longer than 10/12 weeks (Sláintecare targets), equating to 57,000 patients and a one-third reduction in those waiting over 12 months. The average waiting times for outpatients reduced to 7.5 months in 2023 from 9.7 months, and 2023 is the second year in a row that national hospital waiting lists fell.
  • The most recent evidence is that even in the first 12 weeks of this year, we see an increase in demand through attendance at our Emergency Departments. There is no doubt that it is heartening with increases in 1000s attending there is still a 10% reduction on trolleys. Delayed Transfers of Care are also down 30% alone due to better coordination between our hospital and community systems.

Commenting, Bernard Gloster, CEO HSE, said:

“Last year has the highest ever amount of health care delivered in the State. However, it is clear that there is still much to do, and we are building on that work through our 2024 Service Plan. We know that demand for care will continue to rise as our ageing population continues to grow, with the number of those aged 65 years and older expected to double and the population aged over 80 to increase almost threefold in the next two decades. Each year, we see significant additional demand rising, and our focus on older people has to be central to all of our efforts. 

“To meet this challenge, and as a key objective of Sláintecare, we are currently undergoing structural reform to realign hospital, community and public health services into six regional teams, focused on delivering person-centred care to meet the health needs of the people in each region. Two critical areas that will remain high priority are improving access to care for people on waiting lists and improving unscheduled and emergency care. This doesn’t just involve our hospitals, but also developing community-based healthcare to support people to stay well and avoid the need to go to hospital or reduce the number of hospital stays.

“Our workforce has grown since the start of 2020 and at the end of 2023 was at 145,985 Wholetime Equivalent. 2023 saw the highest net growth of our workforce by 8,000. Strong improvements in the Community to future proof service have seen for example almost 2,800 extra staff being recruited as part of the Enhanced Community Care programme to develop 96 Community Healthcare Networks, 27 Integrated Care Programme for Older Persons (ICPOP) teams and 26 Integrated Care Programme for the Prevention and Management of Chronic Disease (ICPCD) teams. In 2023 there were almost 1.2m patient contacts with Community Healthcare Networks, 98,550 patient contacts with ICPOP teams, 548,685 patient reviews in the Chronic Disease Management Programme in General Practice with GPs referring any patients who need extra support to the specialist ICPCD Teams which had over 150,000 patient contacts.”

Last year, the HSE progressed a number of modernised care pathways, and these included Urology (Haematuria, Continence and Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms), Ophthalmology (Paediatric Eye, Cataract, Medical Retina) and Orthopaedics (Virtual Fracture Assessment Clinics). 

It is important to recognise that despite pressures, the substantial funding provided to the health service last year led to very significant increases in activity, and we are determined to build on this so as to deal with the enormous challenges we face.

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