Outpatient Services

Delivering outpatient care is a core activity of the acute hospital system. This includes Emergency Department services as well as planned services provided on an outpatient basis. For example, you may be referred by your family doctor (GP) for specialist assessment by a consultant or his or her team or for diagnostic assessments such as x-rays or laboratory tests or for treatment such as physiotherapy. Patients can access diagnostics, face to face consultation, certain procedures or consultation or treatments with medical staff.

Every year about 3.2 million patients attend outpatient services in our hospitals. The National Service Plan 2018 sets national targets for waiting times for outpatient services. The NTPF monitors compliance with these targets.

What To Bring To An Outpatient Appointment

  • Appointment letter
  • Medical Card (if you have one)
  • Your current medication
  • Contact details e.g. You own mobile phone number and next of kin
  • GP name and address
  • If you have an Eye Clinic appointment please bring any prescription glasses and someone with you as you may not be able to drive for a couple of hours post examination if eye drops are required
  • If you had X-Rays or Scans done in another hospital or in a private diagnostic centre, please bring these or any relevant documentation with you when attending your appointmen

How To Get The Most From Your Outpatient Appointment

  • Ensure that your appointment letter, date & time is kept in secure place and bring this with you on the day of your appointment.
  • Please bring all your medicines. A complete list of your recent prescribed medications should be available from your pharmacist on request should you wish to do so.
  • Always prepare a list of questions you want to discuss with the doctor
  • Take a relative or friend with you as this may make you feel more comfortable. Listen to what your doctor says and if you do not understand do not be afraid to ask for clarification.
  • Write down important points. Check your list at the end of the consultation to make sure you have covered all the points.
  • Don’t be afraid to say how you really feel. At the end of your consultation, the doctor will tell you if you require a further appointment or investigations.
  • Please ensure that you return to the Reception Desk and advise of your care plan (even if you have been discharged from the clinic).

The Outpatient Waiting List Action Plan

The Outpatient Waiting List Action Plan 2017 focused on reducing the number of patients waiting 15 months or more for outpatient appointments by 50% by the end of October 2017. 

Unable To Attend Your Outpatient Appointment? (DNA)

If you are unable to attend an outpatient appointment please contact the hospital where the appointment is scheduled for.

The majority of hospitals provide text reminders to patients a short period of time prior to their appointment. Where text reminder is not available, patients are typically reminded by letter. It is important for patients to contact and notify acute hospital services if they are unable to attend a scheduled outpatient appointment. This will allow staff to rebook an appointment and ensure the patient is provided with the care prescribed by his/her referring GP.

478,765 patients did not show up for their outpatient appointment in 2016. This is an overall DNA (did not attend) rate of 13%. Over the coming three years it is hoped that the introduction of advanced booking systems will see this rate fall to 5% - 8%, coming in line with international best practice.

The Outpatient Services Performance Improvement Programme 

The Outpatient Service Performance Improvement Programme is being implemented nationally between 2016-2020, to remodel the provision of OPD services to patients in acute hospitals. The overall aim of the programme is to ensure timely, appropriate access to OPD services so that the right patient is seen by the most appropriate member of the clinical team at the right time.

Outpatient Attendance Dashboard

We recently started publishing a report on the average number of outpatient appointments seen by health region, hospital, specialty and consultant in 21 hospitals. 

Find out more about the HSE's outpatient attendance dashboard.